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Arab states purchased nearly a quarter of Israel's record $12.5bn in arms exports

Boom in trade with Abraham Accord countries comes as Israel's Elbit Systems says it will set up branches in Morocco
An Israeli Iron Dome air defence system launches a missile to intercept rockets fired from the besieged Gaza Strip, on the outskirts of the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on 7 August 2022 (AFP)

Arab states that normalised ties with Israel under the Abraham Accords accounted for about 25 percent of Israel’s record $12.5bn in defence exports last year, signalling the deepening economic and defence links between the countries.

The 2022 price tag marked a 50 percent jump from the previous three years and a doubling in volume over the previous decade, according to Israel’s defence ministry. Drones accounted for 25 percent of the 2022 exports, while missiles, rockets or air defence systems amounted to 19 percent, Reuters reported.

The UAE, Morocco, and Bahrain established official relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the US-Backed Abraham Accords.

The countries have since moved to cement ties in the defence sphere. Israel dispatched a senior Israeli navy officer to Bahrain last year. According to satellite images, the UAE has deployed Israeli Barak aerial defence systems.

On Friday, Israel’s top envoy to Morocco said Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s leading defence technology companies, had plans to open two sites in Morocco. The announcement followed a report that Israel is considering recognising Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara territory.

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The boom in arms trade underscores how defence and commercial ties have progressed between Israel and Arab states despite recent tensions in the occupied West Bank and reluctance from Arab states to sign on to a US and Israeli-backed defence group dubbed the "Middle East Nato".

Gulf states like the UAE have been cautious to embrace overt military ties with Israel that could be seen as aimed at their mutual rival, Iran. Tensions in the region have been rising, with one senior Israeli military commander warning: “There’s more chance of a large-scale war than ever before.”

Those calls have grown louder amid concerns in Israel that the US is on the verge of striking an agreement with Iran. Last week, Middle East Eye reported that US and Iran’s lead negotiators had reached an interim agreement to freeze Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting sanctions and allowing some oil sales.

MEE reported that the deal still had to be approved by leaders in Washington and Tehran.

Meanwhile, Israel’s government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been seeking a normalisation agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Although talks have been ongoing for months, Israeli media outlets had recently talked up the chances of a deal. MEE reported previously that Riyadh was likely more cautious about striking a deal as it enjoyed being courted by Israel and the Biden administration, which previously vowed to make the kingdom "a pariah".

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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