’Israel Would Be Embarrassed if It Were Known It’s Selling Arms to These Countries’
Itay Mack, a Jerusalem-based human rights lawyer and activist, seeks greater transparency and public oversight of Israel’s military exports.
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Israel is known to be a powerhouse in military exports, but what does “military exports” actually mean?
It’s a very broad term, encompassing arms and security equipment, as well as know-how, such as that involving combat doctrines or the training of militias and regular forces.
As I understand it, we’re among the top 10 in the world in this regard.
All countries engage in military exports. The problem is that Israel is involved in places that the United States and Europe decided to avoid exporting weapons to. We know Israel is selling arms to Azerbaijan, South Sudan and Rwanda. Israel is training units guarding presidential regimes in African states. According to reports, this is happening in Cameroon, Togo and Equatorial Guinea – nondemocratic states, some of them dictatorships, that kill, plunder and oppress their citizens.
What is clear is that military exports are perhaps identified with Israel, but it’s not just government companies that are involved.
Itay Mack.Gali Eytan
There are a few huge government corporations that are active in this field, such as Rafael [Advanced Defense Systems]. The others are completely private companies, created to make money. There are more than 1,000 firms and more than 300 individuals licensed to deal with sales. All the companies are under the umbrella of the Defense Ministry, which must authorize their activity.
I understand that there are several types of permits.
There’s a budget “pie” that’s made up of states and others that want to buy arms. The Defense Ministry decides who gets the permits and how to divide the pie. Naturally, that’s done in accordance with its interests and those of its cronies. There’s concern about partiality here, as some of those involved [in requesting permits] are [former] senior Israel Defense Forces officers, former Defense Ministry employees and ex-politicians, or politicians who are taking a break from politics. In the end, the pie is divided among the old-boy network.
So we can assume that supervision and enforcement are not strict.
Out of a staff of some 30 employees at the Defense Export Controls Agency, there are only people in charge of examining the 400,000 annual permits. They are also responsible for ensuring that the recipients of the permits do not violate the terms. They are also supposed to oversee real-time developments on the ground, such as violent conflicts that might require the annulment or suspension of permits.
So, does anyone know if there are violations?
The state comptroller found that most of the enforcement of the terms is the result of companies informing on one another. There are about 160 violations [reported by the Defense Ministry] each year, of which only a few are investigated. There is administrative enforcement with negligible fines imposed. Criminal sanctions are not imposed and permits are not revoked – according to the information the ministry delivered to the Knesset. Effectively, DECA is customer service for exporters.
For the same exclusive club.
Right. Who has the courage to stand up to any of these former generals? And even if someone were to do this, the general would simply call someone higher up in the Defense Ministry and arrange things. Besides which, you can make money from arms exports without a permit, by being a go-between, as [former Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert claimed was done by [former Prime Minister] Ehud Barak. That’s where the really big money is.