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Israeli arms export reached record high $11.3 billion in 2021, 7% of which involved friendly Arab states thanks to Abraham Accords

New alliances for Israel, war in Europe creating high demand for Israel’s cutting-edge defense equipment

Iron Dome launcher developed by the Israeli contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (Photo: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)

Israel’s annual arms export sales reached a record high $11.3 billion in 2021, according to official statistics released on Tuesday by the Jewish state’s Defense Ministry. 

Air defense systems, missiles and rockets constituted the largest component of the Israeli export at 20%. Training services represented 15% while unmanned aerial vehicles and warfare systems represented 9% each of the total export. 

While Israel is considered a global leader in cyber technology, that constituted merely 4% of the total arms sales overseas. 

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Brigadier General Yair Kulas, head of the Defense Ministry’s SIBAT exports unit, emphasized the importance of Israel’s arms export achievements in 2021. 

“Today, the Defense Ministry and the security industries mark a historic milestone. Israel’s defense exports have reached double-digit figures for the first time, reaching a 55% increase within two years,” said Kulas. “Demand for Israeli defense products has risen in the past year, manifesting in the sharp increase in transactions between countries, among other things.”

By comparison, the arms export in 2020 was $8.3 billion, a significantly lower amount. Israel’s previously record high export was $9.2 billion and was reached in 2017. 

In a statement, the Defense Ministry stressed SIBAT’s key role behind Israel’s expanding arms export. 

“During the year, about 120 defense industries, with the help and support of SIBAT and the Defense Ministry, managed to sign hundreds of significant contracts around the world, including mega deals worth $1b. and more.” 

A regional breakdown of Israel’s military exports revealed that Europe emerged as the largest importer of Israeli military technology, representing 41% of Jerusalem’s total export. The Asia-Pacific region was ranked second at 34% with India being the single largest buyer of Israeli arms. By contrast, only 12% of the Israeli military export went to North America. This is likely linked to the fact that North America is largely self-sufficient due to the presence of the world’s largest military industries in the United States. 

Some 7% of the Israeli military export or $800 million went to friendly Arab states, mainly to the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain. While the figure is impressive, it excludes the $560 million sale of Israeli Barak-8 surface-to-air missile system to Morocco, which will be part of the 2022 export statistics. 

However, this constitutes already a dramatic development of burgeoning Arab-Israeli military ties, especially given the fact that all three Arab states only formalized their diplomatic relations with Israel through the Abraham Accords in 2020. 

“Looking ahead, shifting global priorities and partnerships such as the Abraham Accords create high demand for Israel’s cutting-edge technological systems,” Kulas said.

The SIBAT chief is optimistic about the future and believes that the Jewish state’s military exports to the Arab world will surpass $1 billion in 2022. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine took much of the West by surprise, especially European states, which assumed that wars on the continent were a thing of the past. The Russian aggression has pushed Germany and several other European countries to increase their defense spending. Key people in the Israeli defense establishment believe that dramatic European military investments will benefit the already successful Israeli arms export. 

The Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the Russian invasion of Ukraine had reminded many countries that a strong defense is a national priority. 

“The war between Russia and Ukraine has proved to the world what has always been clear to us, which is that defense is a national need for every country, and not simply a luxury. Business-wise, we’re profiting from these sales, but in the geopolitical sense war is an unfortunate and bad thing,” Gantz stated. 

Israel was recently ranked as the world’s 10th largest arms exporter over the past five years, according to a report compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. This is a remarkable achievement for the tiny Jewish state with a population of fewer than 10 million people. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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