Israel and the Palestinians: Where do the Israelis get their weapons from?

The US is by far Israel's largest arms supplier, helping it build one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Western governments are under increasing pressure to halt arms sales to Israel because of the way it is waging its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israel is a major arms exporter, but its military depends heavily on imported aircraft, guided bombs and missiles to carry out what experts call one of the fiercest and most destructive air campaigns in recent history.

Activist groups and some politicians among Israel's Western allies argue that arms exports must be halted because, they say, Israel is not doing enough to protect civilian lives and ensure that enough humanitarian aid reaches them.

On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed the arms ban, with 28 countries voting in favor, six against and 13 abstaining.

The US and Germany - which account for the vast majority of Israel's arms imports - voted against.

Germany said it did so because the resolution did not specifically condemn Hamas.

The war triggered a Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, which killed about 1.200 people, mostly civilians, according to an Israeli estimate.

More than 33.000 people died in Gaza, of which 70 percent were women and children, according to the Ministry of Health, which is run by Hamas.

Israel insists its forces are working to avoid civilian casualties, accuses Hamas of deliberately pushing civilians into the fire, and claims it does not impose restrictions on aid deliveries.

United States

The US is by far Israel's largest arms supplier, helping it build one of the most technologically sophisticated armies in the world.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the United States accounts for 69 percent of Israel's arms imports between 2019 and 2023.

The US provides Israel with $3,8 billion in annual military aid under a XNUMX-year agreement aimed at maintaining what it says is a "qualitative military advantage" over its neighbors.

Israel used the grants to finance orders for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a stealth aircraft considered the most advanced of all time.

The country has so far ordered 75 pieces and received more than 30 of these aircraft.

It was the first country other than the US to receive the F-35 and the first to use it in combat.

Part of the aid - 500 million dollars per year - is allocated to finance the defense missile program, which includes the jointly developed Iron Dome, Arrow and David's Sling systems.

Israel relied on them during the war to defend against rocket, missile and drone attacks by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, as well as other pro-Iranian armed groups in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

In the days following the October 7 Hamas attack, President Joseph Biden said the US was "rapidly sending additional military assistance" to Israel.

Since the start of the war, only two sales by the U.S. military to Israel have been disclosed after receiving emergency approval - one for 14.000 rounds of anti-tank ammunition worth $106 million and another for 147 million components to make 155mm artillery shells.

But US media have reported that President Biden's administration has also quietly made more than 100 sales of military equipment to Israel, most of which were below the dollar amount that would require Congress to be formally notified.

They say yes contain thousands of precision-guided munitions, small-diameter bombs, bunker busters and small arms.

Reuters

However, the SIPRI report said that despite these shipments, the total amount of Israeli arms imports from the US in 2023 was almost the same as in 2022.

One deal big enough to require congressional notification is the $18 billion sale of up to 50 F-15 fighter jets, which ended up in the news this week.

Congress has not yet approved that agreement.

Although the aircraft would have to be built from scratch and would not be delivered immediately, the sale is expected to spark heated debate from Biden's Democratic Party, many of whose congressmen and supporters are increasingly concerned about Israel's actions in Gaza.

Senator Elizabeth Warren said she was ready to block the deal and accused Israel of "indiscriminate bombing" in Gaza.

Germany

Germany is the next largest arms exporter to Israel, accounting for 30 percent of imports between 2019 and 2023, according to SIPRI.

Concluded at the beginning of November, arms sales to Israel from European countries she stated 300 million euros - which is a tenfold increase compared to 2022 - and most of those export licenses were approved after the October 7 attack.

The majority of those sales were components for air defense systems and communications equipment, according to the DPA news agency.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been an ardent supporter of Israel's right to self-defense throughout the war and, although his tone on Israel's actions in Gaza has changed in recent weeks and there has been some debate in Germany, the arms sale does not appear to be in danger of being cancelled.

Reuters

Italija

Italy is the third largest arms exporter to Israel, but accounted for only 0,9 percent of Israeli imports between 2019 and 2023.

They reportedly included helicopters and naval artillery.

Sales last year amounted to 13,7 million euros, according to the national statistics office ISTAT.

Some 2,1 million euros from exports were approved between October and December, despite the government's assurances that it would block them under a law banning arms sales to countries at war or deemed to be violating human rights.

Defense Minister Guido Croceto told parliament last month that Italy fulfilled existing contracts after checking them on a case-by-case basis and making sure they "did not concern material that could be used against civilians".

Other countries

British arms exports to Israel are "relatively small," according to the British government, and it was only $53 million in 2022.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) says that since 2008, the UK has approved arms exports to Israel worth a total of $727 million.

Most of them were for components used in US warplanes that end up in Israel.

But the British government is under increasing pressure to freeze even these exports.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that Great Britain has a "very cautious export approval regime" and added that Israel "must behave in accordance with international humanitarian law".

The UK government is also preparing an assessment that will give an opinion on the risk that Israel has breached international law with its actions since the beginning of 2024.

But a senior government source told the BBC that an arms embargo on Israel was "not going to happen".

The government of Canada, whose arms sales to Israel totaled $2022 million in 15,7, said in January it had suspended new arms export licenses until it could be sure they were being used in accordance with Canadian law.

However, permits granted earlier remained valid.

Israel's defense industry

AFP

Israel has also built up its own defense industry with American help and now ranks as the world's ninth largest arms exporter, with an emphasis on advanced technology products rather than massive hardware.

It accounts for 2,3 percent of global sales between 2019 and 2023, according to SIPRI, with India (37 percent), the Philippines (12 percent) and the US (8,7 percent) as the top three recipients.

Sales were worth $2022 billion in 12,5, according to Israel's Ministry of Defense.

Unmanned aerial vehicles accounted for 25 percent of these exports, followed by missiles, rockets and air defense systems (19 percent), as well as radar and electronic warfare systems (13 percent), the Ministry said.

In September, just before the war began, Germany agreed to a $3,5 billion deal with Israel to buy a sophisticated missile defense system called the Strela, which intercepts long-range ballistic missiles.

The deal - Israel's largest ever - had to be approved by the US because they jointly developed the system.

US military supplies in Israel

EPA

Israel is also home to a huge US weapons depot built in 1984 to build up supplies in advance for their own troops in the event of a regional conflict, as well as to allow Israel quick access to weapons in an emergency.

The Pentagon sent about 300.000 155mm artillery shells from the War Reserve Ammunition Stockpile-Israel to Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

Ammunition stocks in the warehouse have also reportedly been sent to Israel since the start of the Gaza war.


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