Israel is the world’s eighth-largest weapons exporter, with India, Azerbaijan and Vietnam its three largest clients in 2014-2018, according to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute released Monday.
Israel was responsible for 3.1 percent of global arms exports in the period surveyed, a 60% increase in volume over previous years.
The report also found a large increase in American arms exports to Israel, with 64% of Israel’s weaponry procurements coming from the US. Twenty-seven percent of Israel’s arms imports came from Germany, and 8.9% from Italy.
According to the report, arms imports by countries in the Middle East increased by 87% from the period 2009-2013 to the period 2014-2018, and accounted for 35% of global arms imports in the past five years.
For that same period, Saudi Arabia was the world’s largest arms importer with an increase of 192% compared with 2009-2013. Arms imports by Israel rose by 354%, by Qatar (225%) and by Iraq (139%) from the period 2009-2013 to the period 2014-2018. Syria’s arms imports fell by 87% during that time.
Congress has recently pushed for the US to end the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi by officials from the kingdom, allegedly at the direction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Last month, a committee in the UK’s House of Lords said that the country should also suspend some sales to the kingdom over its “unconscionable” war in Yemen.
The report editor, Pieter Wezeman, told the Globes newspaper that Israel exports arms to all regions of the world, with the exception of the Middle East.
“Israel exports weapons to many countries in the world,” Wezeman said. “The only region in which the Israeli defense industry, with government encouragement, is inactive is in the Middle East, now that its relations with Turkey have deteriorated.”
Israel has been accused of selling weapons and military services to human rights violators around the world for decades, including to apartheid South Africa, Rwanda during the 1994 genocide and in recent years to South Sudan, despite a near-universal arms embargo over the bloody civil war there.
Most recently, Israel has been accused of supplying Myanmar with “advanced weapons” during the country’s ethnic cleansing campaign against its Rohingya Muslims. The Foreign Ministry admitted last year to selling Myanmar weapons in the past, but said that it had frozen all contracts earlier in 2017.
In 2018, controversial Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte told President Reuven Rivlin that his country would henceforth only buy weapons from Israel due to its lack of restrictions. He has said in the past that he sees Israel as an alternative supplier of weapons after the US and other countries refused to sell him arms over human rights violations.
The recent warming of ties between Israel and Chad was reportedly conditioned on Jerusalem’s willingness to sell arms to the African country, which critics say is guilty of human rights violations.
India’s ties with Israel have warmed in recent years, particularly in the area of military cooperation and weapons development, with the countries exchanging billions of dollars in defense contracts. In February it was reported Israeli-made smart bombs were used by India in an airstrike on Pakistani jihadists across the volatile Kashmir border, in an attack that raised tensions between the two nuclear arch-rivals.
Azerbaijan is seen as an important ally to the Jewish state, given that it shares a border with Israel’s nemesis, Iran. Last year, the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev, revealed Azerbaijan had purchased some $5 billion worth of weapons and defense systems from Israel.
Israel has come under criticism for its cooperation with Azerbaijan over the country’s reported human rights violations, despite it being one of the few majority-Muslim countries with which Israel enjoys an openly positive relationship.
Israel’s defense exports are regulated according to a 2007 law that requires defense contractors to consider what and where the Israeli weapons will be used for. The law is designed to prevent companies from knowingly selling weapons to countries that intend to use them to commit atrocities.
While the contractors are legally required to take potential human rights violations into consideration under the law, this requirement can be overruled out of diplomatic or security concerns.
Currently, Israeli law only prevents the sale of weapons to countries that are under an official embargo from the UN Security Council. However, such embargoes rarely happen, generally because of vetoes by China and Russia.