6,800 Arms Exporters Working in Israel, State Documents Reveal

Information revealed in response to petition requesting Ministry of Defense to disclose identity of Israeli arms dealers and companies; State says disclosing information may harm national security and foreign relations.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Some 6,784 Israelis deal with arms exports, the state revealed last Wednesday in response to an administrative petition demanding to expose the names of individuals and companies listed in the Israeli Defense Export Controls Agency, as well as the permits issued by the ministry.

The state's response argued that the information could not be revealed "due to the need to protect the state's security and its foreign relations." The response states that exposing details of Israeli arms exporters "would be likely to draw the attention of hostile elements, thus putting their personal safety and state security at risk."

Nonetheless, the response includes data about the exports of the Israeli arms industry. As of the end of 2012, there were 6,684 individuals dealing with security exports in 1,006 companies and 312 independent businesses. The Israeli Defense Export Controls Agency issued 1,900 marketing permits and 8,716 export permits.

The Tel Aviv District Court will hear an appeal on Monday, submitted by attorney Eitay Mack, requesting that, based on the Freedom of Information Law, the Defense Ministry publish the names of individuals and companies listed in the Israeli Defense Export Controls Agency, after the list is examined with explanations of details omitted.

Attorney Mack argued that "the unique character of Israeli security exports, whose experience and prestige were acquired by the blood of Israeli citizens, a prestige enhanced by dozens of years of war and military control of the occupied territories, lays a special responsibility of transparency and openness on the part of the respondents, which might not exist in other countries."

The state suggested that attorney Mack turn to the Defense Ministry and the official responsible for the implementation of the Freedom of Information Law at the ministry and request information concerning security exports to "specific states or specific permits for marketing or exports, and then the respondents will examine the specific request and its ramifications."

The state's main argument in its rejection of the petition lays with the need to protect state security, its foreign relations, the exporters and their families, and possible damage that revealing the information might cause to their privacy and commercial secrets.

The respondents added that revealing the information could lead to a high probability of a serious and imminent damage to state security, the safety of the exporters and Israel's foreign relations, and therefore the respondents must refrain from presenting the requested information.

As to revealing the names of the exporters, the state clarified that "this exposure could put the exporters and their families at risk, and they may be the target of terror attacks, including kidnapping this information is connected directly to sensitive issues of state security (technology and arms systems) and its relations with other countries." The state added that its response was written based on the opinion of relevant authorized security officials.

Israel's security exports amounted to 7 billion dollars in 2012. Israel is considered a leading arms exporter of drones, missiles, intelligence equipment, optic equipment for aircrafts, communications and navigation equipment, as well as basic battle equipment such as helmets and bullet proof vests.

DECA's list of items includes more than 18,000 different security commodities that Israel sells or is still selling abroad. In 2012 alone, DECA received 26,000 requests to sell security items, approving only 20,000 of them. Most sales are to the U.S. and Europe, but in recent years security commerce with Asia and South America is on the rise, with African sales considered negligent. In a convention held in the beginning of the year, Defense Ministry director, Udi Shani, mentioned four countries he believed Israel should now focus on: Azerbaijan, Poland, Vietnam and Brazil.

According to a presentation prepared by DECA last year, most Israeli companies focus on Poland, India, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, the U.S., Columbia, Brazil and Chile. The presentation stated that Latin America is "a developing continent as far as security sales." The Americans and some Europeans have spotted the potential and have entered the market as significant competitors.

Trends in Asia and the increase in military spending affect Israel directly, due to the focus on air defense and anti-terror measures – two fields in which Israel has reached impressive results. Officials in the security industry say that Israel intends to export Iron Dome and Armored Shield Protection, both active and successful systems in recent years.

The Eitan, Israel's largest UAV. The air force does not forgo its services in any operation.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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