Israeli arms exports to Europe double amid refugee crisis

Israel signed contract for arms deals worth $5.7 billion last year, a slight increase over 2014 but down sharply from 2013 levels, Michel Ben-Baruch, head of Sibat, the Defense Ministry’s defense export agency, said on Wednesday.

“Completing a challenging year, we succeeded through collaborative and determined work to preserve the scope of contract signings compared to 2014,” he said, citing $5.6 billion of new orders in 2014 and $6.5 billion in 2013.

In contrast to the modest gains in general, sales to Europe more than doubled last year to $1.63 billion from $724 million, presumably as a consequence of the refugee crisis and the rise in terror attacks on the continent.

Sales to North America also climbed, to $1.02 billion.

The Defense Ministry noted that Israel remains one of the world's top 10 defense exporters and investors in technology to overcome "operational difficulties posed by asymmetric warfare and the importance of precise munitions and real-time intelligence."

The majority of Israeli arms exports were to Asia and Europe, according to the report, despite the fact that exports to the former dropped from $3 billion in 2014 to $2.3 billion in 2015. Exports to Africa, which have soared over the past three years, also dropped last year by nearly 50% – from $318 million in 2014 to $163 million last year. Sales to Latin America also fell.

The Defense Ministry explained the fall in sales by pointing to "falling oil prices and currency exchanges." It predicted, however, that exports would continue to recover slightly in 2016. Imminent major arms deals with India should help realize that prediction, and in particular will help re-stabilize figures from Asia.

It is notable that Israeli exports in general declined in 2015, in part due to the strength of the shekel and weak global economy.

Aircraft and aerospace system upgrades were the most lucrative military exports, leading the pack at 14% of all new contracts in 2015. In second place was radar and electronic systems (12%) and drones (11%). Israel is the world's largest exporter of drones.

AFP contributed to this report.


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