From the Gulf countries facing Iran to the consequences of the war in Ukraine – Israel has become a world weapons power and has broken the record for defense exports.
The Defense Ministry announced that the scope of defense exports of Israeli industries to the countries of the world reached about $12.5 billion (about NIS 45 billion) in 2022. According to the ministry, exports have more than doubled since 2014, and jumped by 50% in just the last three years.
About a quarter of the contracts signed with foreign armies are for reconnaissance and attack drones. The demand is so great that the defense establishment says that if there were additional production lines in Israel the numbers would be even higher.
The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, but also the Abraham Accords with the Gulf countries, continues to bear fruit as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco continue to be interested in and purchase weapons systems manufactured by Israel, and the purchase of them increased threefold last year.
According to the Defense Ministry, these are the highest figures ever, and the second year in a row that the record for defense exports from Israel was broken. In the past year, about 120 Israeli companies signed hundreds of new sales contracts with countries on all continents, some of them also "mega deals" worth hundreds of millions of dollars, such as the sale of the Arrow 3 system to Germany.
"We expanded the new markets and removed bureaucratic barriers that reduced regulation," the Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding that "all of this is under the rules of the control of defense exports and international treaties."
According to the data from the ministry's International Defense Cooperation Directorate, about half of the new deals are worth more than $100 million each, and the scope of defense exports to the Arab countries within the framework of the Abraham agreements reached about $3 billion.
The defense exports in 2022 break down to 25% military drones and drones, 19% missile, rocket and air defense systems, 13% radar and electronic warfare systems, 10% surveillance and optronics, 6% intelligence and cyber systems, 5% armored vehicles and tools, 6% ICT and communication systems and the rest is related to ammunition and armaments, naval systems, and means of firing and launching.
Some 30% of the transactions were made with Asian and Pacific countries such as India and Singapore, 29% to European countries, 24% to Arab countries from the Abraham Accords, 11% to the USA and Canada, 3% to Africa and 3% to South America.
The head of the International Defense Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT) at the Defense Ministry, Brig.-Gen. Yair Kulas, said that "defense exports have increased by 65% in five years, first and foremost thanks to the technologies of Israeli companies. There has been a jump in the number of transactions between defense ministries."
Defense Ministry Director-General Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir noted that "the defense industries support close to 100,000 households in Israel directly and indirectly, with a significant component of them located in the periphery. The unique connection between the creativity and ingenuity of the industries in Israel, the operational experience of the IDF and the security ties of the Defense Ministry strengthen Israel's assets in the world."
A senior official at the Defense Ministry explained to Ynet that the increase in procurement also directly helps the IDF, because the number of production increases and thus the costs to the army decrease. For example, Israeli-made artillery weapon systems will be sold to the IDF next year at a lower price, after these were sold to European customers. The main increase in sales is to European countries, and in order to deal with a shortage of production lines in Israel some of the contracts are shared with local companies in the purchasing countries, such as in Germany and France.
In the next phase, the Defense Ministry is working to open up the Japanese market for Israeli weapons, and talks on the matter have already been made in recent months with the Defense Ministry in Tokyo. The Baltic and Nordic countries such as Sweden, Norway and Estonia also began to show interest in new purchases from Israeli manufacturers. On the other hand, the sales campaign to India, mainly in missiles and naval vessels, faded a little in the past year, mainly due to a change in the tenders they carried out in the giant country.
With Ukraine, mainly due to Russian pressure, the current government continues its previous policy and does not sell offensive weapons to Kyiv, including air defense systems such as Iron Dome, which are considered offensive.
"We will continue to assist the Ukrainians mainly with soft measures such as shielding and the like," the Defense Ministry said in a statement. According to the ministry, "air defense systems are in great demand in the world and Israel is a pioneer in the field, but we do not want these capabilities to spill over to hostile countries."
The interest in Israeli capabilities also relates to border protection, a topic that began during the period of the coronavirus pandemic, and is now attracting interest mainly in Europe and the central United States.
The closing of the borders with Gaza and Egypt through smart means and not just a high fence has sparked demand for this capability from several countries. In response to a question from Ynet, a senior official in the Defense Ministry clarified that Israel has not sold weapons to Myanmar for years, in light of many reports on the subject.