A heavy reliance on other nations for many key components

Amid arms embargo calls, data shows 99% of Israeli weapon imports are from US, Germany

Swedish institute’s research finds American arms make up 69%, another 30% come from Berlin; all IAF manned aircraft are US-made, aside from one French-built helicopter

Tal Schneider is a Political Correspondent at The Times of Israel

A delivery of armored vehicles from the US arrives in Israel, December 6, 2023. (Defense Ministry)
A delivery of armored vehicles from the US arrives in Israel, December 6, 2023. (Defense Ministry)

As calls grow among critics of Israel around the world to limit arms sales to the Jewish state over the ongoing war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, data released in recent days shows nearly all of Israel’s weapons imports are from companies in the United States and Germany.

According to a 2023 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which studies conflicts and arms, 69 percent of Israel’s arms purchases come from US firms, 30% from Germany and 0.9% from Italy.

“At the end of 2023, the USA rapidly delivered thousands of guided bombs and missiles to Israel, but the total volume of Israeli arms imports from the USA in 2023 was almost the same as in 2022. By the end of 2023, pending deliveries of major arms to Israel included 61 combat aircraft from the USA and 4 submarines from Germany,” the SIPRI report read. By guided bombs, it was apparently referring to kits that convert simple bombs into precision weaponry, via systems like the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), made by American companies. Israel does not manufacture such systems itself.

The SIPRI report stated that US sales of fighter jets to Israel over recent decades have played “a major role in Israel’s military actions against Hamas and Hezbollah.”

All of the Israeli Air Force’s current manned aircraft are American-made, aside from one helicopter built by France’s Airbus Helicopters.

As a result, Israel relies heavily on other nations for many of the components in its warplanes, helicopters, warships and submarines, since foreign manufacturers generally do not allow for a separation between the core product and its installed systems, except for local adjustments for navigation and matching software.

Illustrative: This picture taken from a position in northern Israel shows an Israeli Air Force fighter jet flying over the border area with southern Lebanon on March 10, 2024. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

While it constitutes a much smaller portion of the total imports, other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands, also provide Israel with critical aircraft components. Israel also imports other materials used for military purposes from various other nations.

Last week, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced Ottawa had stopped arms exports to Israel over the military offensive in the Gaza Strip aimed at eliminating Hamas, following the terror group’s October 7 massacre. The war has sparked a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with aid agencies warning of an imminent famine in the Strip without a continuous flow of aid.

US officials told Politico earlier in the month that President Joe Biden would consider placing conditions on future military aid to Israel if it moves ahead with its planned offensive against Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians are sheltering. In an interview Sunday, US Vice President Kamala Harris did not rule out consequences for Israel if it goes forward with the offensive.

Israel has said it cannot achieve victory in the war without tackling the four remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah, while the global community is intensely concerned about massive harm to civilians sheltering in the city. Jerusalem has said it has prepared a plan to evacuate them.

Progressives in Washington, including US Senator Bernie Sanders, have called for a halt to arms exports to Israel, and European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell has also called on countries to stop sending arms.

Italy announced in January that it had halted exports at the start of the war, and a Dutch court ruled last month that The Netherlands must stop delivering US-owned parts for F-35 fighter jets to Israel.

This file photo taken on January 12, 2016, shows the German-made INS Rahav Dolphin 2-class submarine arriving at the military port of Haifa on January 12, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

SIPRI’s study ranked Israel as the world’s 15th top weapons importer, taking up 2.1% of all imports, according to globally available data from 2019-2023. It also said that Israel was the world’s 9th top weapons exporter, responsible for 2.4% of exports.

The institute noted that not all information on weapons trading is transparent, particularly on the Israeli side, and therefore some information on purchases and sales may be missing in the report.

The study found that Israel and Germany’s dependence is fairly mutual, with Berlin importing 16% of its arms from the Jewish state — its second biggest supplier. SIPRI highlighted Germany’s purchase of the Arrow 3 long-range air defense system last year as an expression of this relationship. Meanwhile, Israel is Germany’s third-largest destination for its military exports, receiving 12% of exports — behind Ukraine (12%) and Egypt (20%).

Israel is the destination for only 3.6% of US exports, coming in behind Kuwait (4.5%), Qatar (8.2%), Japan (9.5%) and Saudi Arabia (15%), SIPRI said.

Israel’s top customer for military supplies is India, which takes a share of 37% of Israeli exports, followed by the Philippines (12%) and the US (8.7%), according to the research.

SIPRI, a think tank founded in 1966, provides data, analysis and recommendations on matters relating to global security.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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