Defense Min.: Israel Doubled Arms Sales to Africa in 2013

Activist seeking restrictions in export of weapons warns they can be used by repressive regimes.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
An Israeli Merkava tank.
An Israeli Merkava tank. Credit: AFP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Israel doubled the volume of its arms deals with Africa last year, according to Defense Ministry data. The figures show that Israeli firms signed deals to sell $223 million worth of arms to the continent in 2013 ־ twice the previous year’s figure.

In the four years prior to 2013, those sales ranged from $70 million to $120 million a year.

Annual reports to the UN Register of Conventional Arms show that African countries have been increasing arms purchases in recent years. Though the data are self-reported by each country, and may be inaccurate, they do reflect general trends.

According to the UN data, African states have significantly stepped up their purchases of missiles and missile launchers in recent years – two products in which Israel is a considered a world leader.

Itai Mack, an Israeli lawyer and activist who seeks to have such exports restricted, warned that the weapons involved could serve repressive regimes.

“In Africa, because most of the countries are technically considered weak, the impact of Israel exports on preserving repressive regimes is enormous,” he said.

The Defense Ministry explains that before approving an arms deal, it considers both the security-related and the political aspects of the sale.

“Considerations of what regime is in power are taken into account,” a defense official told Haaretz in the past. “There’s a discussion, and there’s a list of countries to which we don’t export.”

Israel doesn’t publish details of all its weapons deals. But past deals with Africa include the sale, in 2009, of 18 120-mm. mortar systems to Uganda, and of 12 81-mm. mortar systems to Botswana.

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