Normalization is Boosting Israeli Drone Sales Across the Middle East

Published February 17th, 2021 - 09:55 GMT
AFP/File photo
AFP/File photo

The normalization of relations with Israel, dubbed a “circle of peace” by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the ensuing business deals that followed have led to a network of new arms deals. This week, it was reported in French media that Israel has signed an agreement with Morocco for a “large order” of BlueBird drones.

 

Israel is one of the world’s largest exporters of drones. Although sales have been overtaken by cheaper Chinese and Turkish drones in the past five years, Israeli-manufactured unmanned ariel vehicles (UAVs) have been instrumental in various conflicts, most recently in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  

Arms sales after the Abraham Accords have been a point of contention between the US and Israel. 

In October 2020, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper reached an agreement that would allow the US to sell arms (likely F-35 fighter jets) to Abu Dhabi in exchange for an upgrade in Israeli military technology. 

“Since the U.S. is upgrading Israel’s military capability and is maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, Israel will not oppose the sale of these systems to the UAE,” Esper and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a joint statement. 

Earlier this month, Israel announced it has sold more than $100m in contracts for loitering munitions. These refer to both sea and land-based technologies. As per custom, Israel did not declare who the munitions were sold to. 

The sale of military technology to Morocco coincides with the annexation of Western Sahara (commonly referred to as the last colony in Africa) which appears to have been sanctioned by Trump after Morrocco normalized relations with Israel. 

This month, Israel was set to attend the Middle East’s most well-known arms fair in the United Arab Emirates. However, Covid restrictions have stopped the Israeli delegation from flying through Ben Gurion Airport. 

The sale of military technology to Morocco coincides with the annexation of Western Sahara (commonly referred to as the last colony in Africa) which appears to have been sanctioned by Trump after Morrocco normalized relations with Israel. 

Netanyahu’s arms deals to Arab neighbors may serve the interests of the Likud party’s wrath against Iran. Speaking at the UN in September 2019, Netanyahu said: “I have an important confession to make: this may surprise you but I have to admit that the Iran deal has had one positive consequence, an unintended one but a positive consequence. By empowering Iran, it brought Israel and many Arab states closer together than ever before in an intimacy and friendship that I have not seen in my lifetime and would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

“And you know, when you form friendships around a threat, around a challenge, you quickly see opportunities… Israel deeply values these new friendships and I hope the day will soon arrive when Israel will be able to expand peace, a formal peace, beyond Egypt and Jordan to other Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians.”

The opening-up of drone sales to neighbors in the region symbolizes the irony of the normalization agreements: peace between parties that were never at war. The military-based perspective on foreign exports, however, is ensuring that when there is another conflict it will cause untold misery to those in conflict zones. 


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