Arab countries accounted for 25% of Israel’s record $12.5bn in arms exports: Report

Arab states that normalised ties with Tel Aviv under the Abraham Accords have purchased nearly a quarter of Israel’s record $12.5bn in military equipment exports last year, a report has revealed.

The 2022 price tag marked a 50 percent jump from the previous three years and a doubling in volume over the previous decade, according to Israel’s defence ministry. Drones accounted for 25 percent of the 2022 exports, while missiles, rockets or air defence systems amounted to 19 percent, Reuters reported.

The UAE, Morocco, and Bahrain established official relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the US-Backed Abraham Accords.

The countries have since moved to cement ties in the defence sphere. Israel dispatched a senior Israeli navy officer to Bahrain last year. According to satellite images, the UAE has deployed Israeli Barak aerial defence systems.

On Friday, Israel’s top envoy to Morocco said Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s leading defence technology companies, had plans to open two sites in Morocco. The announcement followed a report that Israel is considering recognising Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara territory.

The boom in arms trade underscores how defence and commercial ties have progressed between Israel and Arab states despite recent tensions in the occupied West Bank and reluctance from Arab states to sign on to a US and Israeli-backed defence group dubbed the “Middle East Nato”.

Persian Gulf states like the UAE have been cautious to embrace overt military ties with Israel that could be seen as aimed at their mutual rival, Iran. Tensions in the region have been rising, with one senior Israeli military commander warning: “There’s more chance of a large-scale war than ever before.”

Israel’s government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been seeking a normalisation agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Although talks have been ongoing for months, Israeli media outlets had recently talked up the chances of a deal. Middle East Eye reported previously that Riyadh was likely more cautious about striking a deal as it enjoyed being courted by Israel and the Joe Biden administration, which previously vowed to make the kingdom “a pariah”.

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