The anxiety felt by some Israelis about the tarnishing of the country's tough image in recent years may be premature. Israel is still the go-to state for all things defense-related, according to recent statistics and reports.
Israel became the world's fourth largest arms exporter in 2007, after signing contracts worth $4.3 billion, according to the Defense Ministry. According to Ministry Director Pinchas Buchris, only the U.S.A., Russia and France export more arms than the tiny Middle Eastern country.
Israel's main exports in the defense field are radar systems, anti-tank missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and its major clients are India, Turkey, the U.S.A. and other western countries.
New Law to Regulate Exports
A new law which will go into effect in January will regulate arms exports, and it will be enforced by a new agency – the Defense Export Department. The maximum punishments for violations of the rules governing defense exports will be 5 years in jail, and fines could reach NIS 10 million.
The Defense Ministry handles 30,000 applications for brokering permits a year, 5,000 applications for export licenses, and a further 70,000 applications for license renewals.
Photo: Israel Aircraft Industries
The law is intended to place Israel's arms exports under the kind of limitations that other exporting countries have placed on themselves. It will make it illegal for an Israeli abroad to sell weapons from one foreign country to another in violation of an embargo. The law will also define which weapons are forbidden for export, and will make it more difficult to qualify for an export license.
Israel is no newcomer to the club of top defense exporters, and was actually listed in third place by Jane's Defense Weekly as recently as 2003. The U.S.'s Popeye air-to-surface missiles — dubbed AGM-142 by the U.S. Air Force — were designed by Rafael, a semi-governmental weapons-development authority, which also designed the Litening brand targeting pods used to fire precision weapons from the Marines' AV-8B Harrier jet. Israeli-designed Hunter unmanned aerial vehicles are in the service of the U.S. Army, and another UAV made by the Israel Aerospace Industry, the Pioneer, has been used by U.S. Marines.
Israel's high ability in the security and technology sphere is recognized – and envied – in the Arab world surrounding it, as this frank sermon from Qatar TV shows:
The American entertainment industry, too, has become a client of Israel's security industry. The new trend in Hollywood, it turns out, is Israeli bodyguards. Among the stars employing Israeli brawn are Eva Longoria, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt (before their divorce), and Lindsey Lohan.
Israel21c reports: "Kevin Federline's lawyer hired IDF-trained Aaron Cohen, founder of the Beverly Hills-based IMS Security, to serve Britney Spears' camp with subpoenas for their custody battle. Even that dubious friend to the Jews, Mel Gibson, has relied on [an Israeli] to part the waters for him. For more than a decade, Avi Korein was Gibson's personal bodyguard before he opened his own Beverly Hills security firm, Screen International Security Services."
'They Never Switch Off'
The report says that security firm CEOs also seek out ex-Israeli military members: "Elijah Shaw, CEO of Icon Services Corporation in St. Paul, Minnesota, once hired an ex-Israeli commando to guard a famous actress who was being stalked on an international tour.
"Stalking is a form of terror," counter-terrorism expert Cohen told The Forward in October. "The formula is a lot like counter-terrorism, because you need to see who you're dealing with before you freak out." Cohen is a Beverly Hills native who served in the elite Israeli Duvdevan combat unit, which specialized in tracking terrorists.
"'I've used members of the Israel Special Forces - its equivalent of the Navy Seals - when I've had a specific, high-level threat,' says Shaw, whose clients include Naomi Campbell, Michael Bolton and 50 Cent. They operate at such a heightened sense of awareness. Because of the constant conflicts there, they're always on alert; they never switch off.'