Concerned with the lack of protection against Iranian radar-evading missiles, such as the type that attacked a Saudi oil facility in 2019, states in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region have approached Israel to buy electronic missile defence systems.
Interest has been expressed in Rafael Advanced Defense Systems' Trophy active protection system for armored vehicles, and in systems for defense against missiles fired from drones, covering radar and other detection systems, electronic interference systems, and physical interception missiles, Israeli newspaper Globes reported quoting defence sources.
Sales prospects of Israeli-made arms and defense technologies to the UAE and Bahrain, and soon with Sudan, have increased following their peace deal with Israel, Globes newspaper reported quoting Israeli defence sources.
The contacts between Israeli and Gulf states’ representatives are taking place against the background of the involvement of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the civil war in Yemen on the side of the government, against the Houthi rebels, who are supported by Iran. Forces of the Gulf states are fighting in this conflict in the air, on land, and by sea, and the Israeli systems could be “very useful” the newspaper said.
“If the expression of interest (by the Gulf states) becomes an official approach, then three people will have to decide how to respond - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi. They will have to make a decision in principle, which will involve ascertaining the stance of the US on the matter, certainly regarding products developed jointly with the US. They will also have to take into account the risk of information on weapons systems being leaked to hostile elements,” the newspaper said.
According to a defense source, the temptation to sell defensive weapons to the Gulf states is great. It would position Israeli weapons systems in Iran's backyard, and thus realize the huge advantage of the recent peace agreements. "Deployment of Israeli weapons systems, even defensive ones, completely changes the Israel-Iran equation, which up to now has contained a proximate threat only to Israel, through missiles held by Hezbollah and Islamist organizations in the Gaza Strip," Globes said.
Arms sales to the Gulf nations could be hugely profitable for Israel. According to SIBAT, the International Defense Cooperation Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, Israeli arms exports reached $7.2 billion in 2019. The biggest arms buying bloc- the GCC countries- is excluded from Israeli weapons sales. However, If UAE and Bahrain start the trend, then Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest arms importer may follow- if not directly then via the UAE and Bahrain which are in the coalition against the Yemeni Houtis.
How welcome are Israeli arms companies in the UAE and Bahrain will be known in 2021 when the Dubai Air Show, IDEX in Abu Dhabi and a defence show in Bahrain are held. If Israeli companies are allowed to participate, then sales cannot be far behind.