Export promotion by co-operation

Under pressure of nationwide protests demanding more funding to improve social conditions, the Israeli government has decided on defence budget cuts to redirect spending. The Israeli military is claiming this will endanger vital security, such as the missile defence weapons of Israel Aerospace Industries and the Iron Dome developed by Rafael. But with a defence budget of NIS 54.2 billion in 2011 (10.7 billion euro) according to Haaretz, Israel can afford some cuts.

In the past the US compensated Israeli defence cuts but this time that might be less likely. Therfor the Israeli arms industry is working harder than ever to compensate for a shrinking home market by promote itself to potential international costumers. Last month for example, two major arms exhibitions and fairs took place in which Israel played a major role.

One was the Milipol Homeland Security Fair in Paris. Of the exhibitors, 61 were Israeli. Companies were offering products varying from computer security to police force equipment. The French arms research group Observatoire des Armements (Armaments Observer) pointed at the lack of transparency and control of this type of trade, which is, as they phrased it, “only subjected to the law of supply and demand”.

Another huge homeland security and defence event is ISDEF, the International Security and defence Expo and Fair, which took place in Tel Aviv from 31 October to 2 November. The ISDEF promotes itself as “a vital opportunity for high-profile experts to establish professional relationships while serving as a platform for the formation of international cooperation”. This is referring to the Israeli wish to establish production relationships with foreign arms companies to enter foreign markets. The international industry is eager enough to cooperate and use the Israeli combat experience to improve their product.

An example is German Rheinmetall, exhibiting at ISDEF and working with Israeli partner Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to adapt the Heron 1 drone for the German Bundeswehr. Rheinmetall is also collaborating with IAI to develop a new system known as WABEP, the German acronym for “weapons system for standoff engagement of individual and point targets.” WABEP is designed as a kind of kamikaze drone, attacking targets by self-destructing into them. Apparently Rheinmetall is working itself into the profitable booming market of killer drones, profiting from the Israeli experience of targeted killings in occupied territory. In this way the German company makes itself complicit in human rights violations.

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