The growth of Israel’s defense export industry

Israel’s defense industry annually exports around $7 billion worth of products

Date: 05/10/2011, 5:47 PM     Author: Yarden Elazar, Bamahane magazine

In the decade since the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States, global awareness about terrorism has significantly increased.

According to the Defense Ministry’s defense export and defense cooperation branch (SIBAT), the value of Israel’s security exports was about two billion dollars per year before the September 11th attacks whereas today the total stands at about seven billion dollars.

Many countries began using security systems that were developed in Israel.

“The United States woke up to a new reality and today one can see Israeli security companies working worldwide checking passengers and luggage at airports, because we have already been there and we have the knowledge,” said Itamar Graff, deputy director of SIBAT.

Another reason for the increase in defense exports was the fighting conducted by the U.S. and other NATO countries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“When the world became aware of the matter of fighting terrorism, we already had decades of experience on the matter, with many existing technologies,” Graff said. “We are in a small area and constantly cope with terrorist threats that arrive via foot, in tunnels, at day and night, by land and through the air, so we knew to offer the world existing products that have already been tested in operations in Lebanon, Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.”

During fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. needed to protect its soldiers and vehicles and it had to cope with improvised roadside explosive devices and the use of electronic warfare. Israel had already developed means to cope with such threats, and the U.S. began to purchase these Israeli products.

“Our companies knew how to provide existing and verified products,” Graff said. “In both passive and active protection, we are among the world leaders, and we are a power in anti-IED measures.”

Israeli companies have developed systems (using radar and lasers) to defend civilian aircraft from missiles.

Israeli counter-terrorism experts are in high demand worldwide. For instance, ahead of the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, SIBAT is in touch with authorities in that country, to provide consultation on security matters.

Although a decade has passed since the September 11th attacks, SIBAT officials don’t think that the level of Israel’s defense exports will drop any time soon.

“Business is continuing and growing, because the threats aren’t getting smaller,” Graff said. “The world is moving in the direction of dealing with terrorist threats. On issues such as homefront protection, shore security and missile defense, people from around the world come to learn from us. We are dealing with a variety of possible threats and we will continue to be a dominant and significant factor in the world.”