Israel Vying to Supply Weapons to Poland

Allegations of preferential treatment for Israeli suppliers raising a storm among senior Polish officers.

WARSAW — Major American, French and Israeli manufacturers are competing to supply Poland with military equipment estimated at tens of billions of dollars, Haaretz has learned.

Poland is to spend this massive sum on remote-piloted vehicles and an air defense system over the next decade, Polish officials said on Thursday.

Poland's deputy Defense Minister General Waldemar Skrzypczak, who is in charge of armaments procurement, may have the last word in choosing the suppliers.

Sources familiar with the issue said Zkrzypczak has a very high regard for Israel's planning and manufacturing abilities, and is inclined to choose Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicles, which have proved themselves in the Polish Army's service in Afghanistan. The general is also said to prefer anti-air missiles made by the Israeli armaments maker Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

Allegations that Zkrzypczak was preferential to acquiring Israeli military equipment are raising a storm among Poland's senior officers, and its military intelligence has demanded a military investigation into the affair. Intelligence officers who listened to private telephone conversations between Zkrzypczak and one of the large manufacturers of Israeli UAVs, Michal Bull, believe the defense minister's preferences are not without personal interest.

Polish-born Bull, 70, who lives in London and has Israeli and British nationalities, is known to the Polish top brass as one of Israel's largest and best known manufacturer of weapon systems. Among other things, he mediated a major deal to sell Rafael Spike munitions to the Polish army.

Bull and Zkrzypczak have maintained social ties since they met in 1998. Polish intelligence agents said after Bull's visit to the general's private home in the town Legionowo near Warsaw, that the latter's conduct was not untainted with personal interest. But the military prosecution found no hint of any law infraction in the general's conduct and the defense minister has given him his full support.

Sources close to the affair say the scandal was generated by struggles between political rivals in Poland and professional differences of opinion within the army. It could also result from the commercial competition among military equipment manufacturers in Israel, especially between Elbit and another UAV manufacturer, the sources said.

Olivier Fitoussi