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Israeli Companies Eager to Sell Weapons to Countries in the Gulf Region

Arie Egozi - : Dec 18, 2021 - : 5:46 am

The recent successful visit to the UAE by Israeli Prime Minister Nataly Bennet has brought into focus the huge potential for the sale of Israeli weapons in the country, now that the Biden administration has decided to decrease the U.S involvement in the region.

A few months ago, the White House ordered the U.S Army to take out some Patriot air defence batteries from Saudi Arabia. This, and other U.S. measures to pull out from the Gulf region, have made Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region eager to buy Israeli made defence systems. According to Israeli sources, there is a big market for Israeli defence companies in the region, provided some serious hurdles are overcome.

According to sources, senior management officials of Israeli defence companies have, in recent weeks, requested the ministry of defence to speed up the approval process for the planned massive entry of Israeli defence industries into the Gulf States weapons market. Many of the companies have already created contacts in the UAE, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia.

The issue was raised by the Israeli defence industry in view of the fact that Gulf States have showed great interest in systems developed by Israeli companies. Currently, the Israeli ministry of defence is approving only a small part of the potential deals Israeli defence companies have initiated in the Gulf States.

There is no official comment from the ministry of defence on the issue, but well informed sources say that while the policy is likely to change, it would take time.

Soon after relations between Israel and countries in the Gulf region were normalized, the UAE and Bahrain, and even Saudi Arabia that has not officially joined the process, have expressed interest in purchasing Israeli made defence systems. According to a source, the Israeli government wants to further study the Biden administration’ new policy in the Middle East and Gulf region before it steps up pace to become a main defence systems supplier to some Gulf states.

A few Israeli companies are all set to enter the lucrative market once the government gives them the go-ahead. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with EDGE, to jointly design a series of unmanned surface vessels (USV) for the entire range of military and commercial applications. EDGE is leveraging its entity, ADSB, the regional leader in the design, new build, repair, maintenance, refit and conversion of naval and commercial vessels, to collaborate with the Israeli defence company to develop the state-of-the-art USVs.

According to the mission requirements, while ADSB will design the platform, integrate the control systems and payload, and develop the concept of operations (CONOPS), IAI will develop the autonomous control system and integrate various mission-payloads to the control system units.

Faisal Al Bannai , CEO and managing director of the EDGE group, said that the MOU is an important milestone for EDGE to forge collaborations with leading defence players such as IAI.

Boaz Levy , president and CEO of IAI said that the MoU brings together the best technological knowhow from both companies – EDGE Group’s and ADBS’ naval and commercial vessel expertise, and IAI’s expertise in autonomous systems, robotics, and artificial intelligence – for a joint Made in UAE effort, maximizing both companies business opportunities and growth.”

Elbit Systems, another major Israeli defence company, has also acted fast. In November, it announced the establishment of Elbit Systems Emirates (ESE). According to Elbit, ESE will seek to foster a long-term cooperation with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces, oversee customization of solutions to operational needs of end users and lead the transfer of technologies to local partners.

There is no doubt that the issue of selling Israeli advanced weapon systems to the UAE is sensitive. The kingdom has in recent months been looking at ways to improve its relations with Iran. This is a very meaningful development as it was the UAE’s concerns about the Iranian nuclear program that triggered the creation of the Abraham accords.
With the situation in the region being fluid and equations between nations changing, Israel is closely monitoring the developments in order to make the right decisions.

According to Israeli defence sources, while there is no doubt that Israel will sell only defensive systems to the Gulf states in the short-term, that may change in the not-so-distant future.

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