Israeli defense exports down to $7.5 billion in 2018, ministry says

Israeli defense exports down to $7.5 billion in 2018, ministry says

Figures show a decline compared to 2017 due to that year’s $2.5 billion missile deal with India and 2018’s cancelled contract to sell F-16 jets to Croatia

An F-16 fighter jet carrying a 'Rocks' air-to-surface 'bunker buster' missile takes off from an Israeli air base in an undated photograph. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)
An F-16 fighter jet carrying a 'Rocks' air-to-surface 'bunker buster' missile takes off from an Israeli air base in an undated photograph. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)

The Defense Ministry said Wednesday that defense exports in 2018 were worth around $7.5 billion, down almost $2 billion from a year earlier.

According to the ministry’s exports department, about a quarter of the sales were for missiles and missile defense systems.

Around 15 percent of defense exports were of unmanned aircraft, 14% were of radar systems and electronic warfare systems, 14% were upgrades and avionics and 12% were weapons stations.

In addition there were exports of optronics systems, satellite and space systems as well as cyber products.

The figures were down from 2017, which saw $9.2 billion in sales, boosted by Israel’s $2.5 billion deal with India for the Barak 8 missile system that year.

The figures for 2018 were also depressed by the Croatia’s canceled deal to buy 12 F-16 fighter jets from Israel after the US objected to the sale, and India canceling a deal to buy Spike missiles for $500 million, but still beat the figures for 2016 by $1 billion.

“This is further proof of the desire of many countries to cooperate with the State of Israel and express confidence in the excellent capabilities of our defense industry,” said Michel Ben-Baruch, head of the ministry’s export department.

According to the figures, 46% of Israeli defense exports in 2018 were to Asia and the Pacific, 26% to Europe, 20% to North America, 6% to Latin America and 2% to Africa.

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet fires a ‘Rampage’ air-to-ground rocket in an undated photograph. (Israeli Military Industries Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries)

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 last month.

Israel was responsible for 3.1% of global arms exports in the period surveyed, a 60% increase in volume over previous years.

Israel sees the defense exports as key to driving upgraded ties with countries around the world, but it has come under scrutiny for sales of weapons, drones and cyberspying technology to regimes accused of having spotty human rights records.

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.

An Elbit Systems Ltd. Hermes 900 StarLiner drone, capable of flying in domestic, civilian airspace alongside commercial jets. (Elbit Systems Ltd.)

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.

Most recently, Israel has been accused of supplying Myanmar with “advanced weapons” during the country’s ethnic cleansing campaign against its Rohingya Muslims, and of selling guns and other systems to South Sudan, where a civil war has raged for years.

The ministry has also been criticized for allowing Herzliya-based NSO Group to sell phone-tracking technology to regimes accused of using it against activists.

The logo of the Israeli company NSO Group is displayed on a building where they had offices in Herzliya until 2016. (AP Photo/Daniella Cheslow)

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.

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