Israeli booth at the Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 15 November 2021. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
Weapons exports from the Israeli defense industry made record highs in 2021. Neighboring Arab countries contributed to this increase in sales by accounting for seven percent of exports.
Bahrain and the UAE, which normalized relations with Israel in 2020 after signing the so-called Abraham Accords, accounted for $791 million out of the record $11.3 billion in arms exports.
Total global exports of Israeli arms increased from $8.3 billion in 2020.
“Israel’s defense exports have reached double-digit figures for the first time, reaching a 55 percent increase within two years,” stated Yair Kulas, head of the defense ministry’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT), on 11 April.
Arms sales to Arab countries that have normalized relations with Tel Aviv show no signs of diminishing. On 28 March, Israeli media revealed that UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco had expressed an interest in acquiring Israel’s Iron Dome, Green Pine, and Arrow missile defense systems.
The UAE, in particular, seeks such systems in order to protect itself from retaliatory strikes launched by the Yemeni armed forces and Ansarallah resistance movement aimed at pressuring the UAE into ending its involvement in the brutal US-backed, Saudi-led aggression against Yemen.
The Yemeni armed forces and Ansarallah have struck deep into Emirati territory, including striking Abu Dhabi on the same day that Israeli President Isaac Herzog made a historical visit to the Gulf country. The strike was considered a dual message to both the Saudi-led coalition and Israel.
Bahrain has also been bolstering its defense ties with Israel. On 12 February, the Foreign Ministry of Bahrain announced it will allow the permanent stationing of an Israeli military officer in the country.
On 20 February, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al-Zayani disclosed that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has been activated in Bahrain as part of the security and intelligence cooperation with Tel Aviv.
The chief of staff of the Israeli occupation forces, General Aviv Kochavi, made his first official visit to Bahrain on 9 March, likely to discuss issues relating to neighboring Iran.
But the people of Bahrain have put up fierce opposition to the normalization of ties with Israel despite restrictions on their movement and political speech. The capital city Manama saw widespread protests against Israel on 18 February.
However, public action does not come without a price in Bahrain. Former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani revealed that the government of Bahrain routinely locks up dissidents without evidence.
Bin Jassim himself was used as a scapegoat during the prosecution of dissidents, including in the sentencing of opposition bloc leader Sheikh Ali Salman, where the ruling Al-Khalifa family accused Bin Jassim of conspiring with Bahraini dissidents to overthrow the government.
Israel also participates in the violation of the privacy and political rights of Bahrainis, by infecting the phones of several activists with the infamous Pegasus spyware.