Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that Israeli weapons supplied to foreign governments have been used against the IDF in the field of battle during an interview with US television on Wednesday.
While Israel is known as a major exporter of arms to foreign governments, Israeli officials are generally cagey about providing any details on arms exports, and the eventual destination of the weapons.
Asked about Ukrainian requests for Israeli air defense systems, Netanyahu told MSNBC that “weapons that we supplied in one battlefield end up in Iranian hands used against us.”
“This has happened time and again,” Netanyahu added.
The former prime minister cited an incident on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights in which the IDF “encountered Israeli-made weapons” in a place “where we are trying to prevent Iran from opening a second Lebanon front, a second terrorist front against us.”
Netanyahu may have been alluding to a 2016 incident in which drone technology originally sold to Russia was then sold to the Iranian military, who deployed the Russian-manufactured drone against Israel.
On @JoeNBC, eliding response on Israel/Ukraine, Netanyahu admits Israeli arms sales to Russia have boomeranged: He alludes to 2016 event in which an Israeli Searcher-Forpost drone bought by Russia was used by Iran against IDF. Great catch by @TalSchneider. pic.twitter.com/qtCNAboFj6
— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) October 19, 2022
Ironically, the Israeli Air Force reportedly failed to down the drone with two patriot missiles, instead calling on Russian Air Force capabilities to down the aerial vehicle.
In the TV interview, Netanyahu placed his support behind the “prudent” policies of the Lapid government regarding Ukraine. Israel has continuously rejected requests to supply arms, instead agreeing to provide Ukraine with defensive equipment and humanitarian assistance.
On Wednesday Defense Minister Gantz reiterated that Israel will not supply weapons to Ukraine, although he offered to help Ukraine build an early warning system.
Israel is hesitant to antagonize Russia, which maintains a large military presence in Syria.
Israel’s arms exports make up a significant part of its foreign trade. In 2021, Israel exported $11.3 billion in arms, representing 8 percent of exports that year.
A few months ago, Gantz told The Times of Israel’s Hebrew site Zman Israel that the value of defense exports in 2022 will far exceed that of 2021.
As early as June 2022, Defense Ministry data showed a large jump in exports following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which led to an increase in purchases made by Western countries.
Israel sees 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.
Tal Schneider contributed to this report