Over the course of its short history, Israel has instigated atrocities against both the Palestinian people and neighboring Arab states, often using internationally banned chemicals such as White Phosphorus which has been deployed against Gaza and Lebanon in recent days.
In the midst of its ongoing war against the Gaza Strip, the occupation state has enjoyed considerable latitude, thanks in no small part to western support, notably from Washington, which proudly touts itself as a champion of global human rights. The glaring double standards of this western policy are exemplified by decades of documented abuses and war crimes in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Syria, Lebanon, and beyond.
But it is not just western states that underpin Israel’s military capabilities today. An in-depth analysis reveals that a significant portion of funding for Israel’s military industry now comes from Arab countries that have recently normalized relations with the occupation state. Who, then, are the financiers of Israel’s wars?
Israel’s defense industry growth
According to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), between 2018 and 2022, the overwhelming majority – 99 percent – of Israel’s arms imports came from the US and Germany.
During this period, Israel imported $2.7 billion worth of weapons, with the lion’s share – a substantial 79 percent – originating from the US ($2.1 billion) and 20 percent from Germany ($546 million).
It goes without saying that the US is by far Israel’s biggest benefactor, having provided $246 billion in military and economic aid since the close of World War II. In 2016, Washington’s commitment to Tel Aviv was further solidified under the administration of former President Barack Obama with a 10-year memorandum (2019-2028), pledging an astounding $38 billion in military aid to Israel, equating to over $3 billion annually.
Human rights appear to be the last thing on the American mind. As Israeli behaviors worsen, the US is doubling down on its unwavering support for the Israeli war machine and its settler-colonial project, which has resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of Palestinian lives over the past seven decades.
In 2022, two years after the US-brokered Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and the US, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, the Israeli defense industry saw an unprecedented surge in exports totaling $12.5 billion, a record-breaking high since the establishment of Israel 75 years ago.
Leading the way were drone exports, constituting 25 percent of this staggering total, and a significant leap from 9 percent in 2021. Missiles and air defense systems followed closely behind, comprising 19 percent of Israeli arms sales, while radar and electronic warfare systems contributed 13 percent.
Arab states funding Israel’s war economy
A report released by the Israeli Ministry of Defense reveals the financial windfalls that normalization created for the occupation state’s arms industry: in 2022 alone, 24 percent (equivalent to $3 billion) of Israeli military exports found their way to Arab countries that had formalized relations with Tel Aviv. This marked a notable increase from 16.5 percent in the previous year. In 2021, Bahrain and the UAE alone accounted for 7.5 percent ($853 million) of Israel’s arms exports.
Geographically, the Arab signatory states to the Abraham Accords emerge as the third-largest group of countries importing Israeli weapons, following those in Asia-Pacific (30 percent) and Europe (29 percent).
This illustrates the significant role these Arab states play as major contributors to both Israel’s military-industrial complex and its economy. The backdrop to the financial involvement of Arab states, however, is the sobering reality that over 4,137 Palestinian civilians, the majority of whom are women and children, have been killed, with over 13,000 others wounded, in just over a week as Israeli warplanes massacre Palestinians in Gaza.
In contrast to the Arab – and Turkish – complicity that bolsters Israel’s military sector, Iran stands as “the only [West Asian] country that supports the resistance in Palestine at all levels,” as stated by Muhammad al-Hindi, the Deputy Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). This resolute support has arguably contributed to the remarkable recent strategic victory for the Palestinian resistance – as opposed to Gaza, Jerusalem, and the West Bank having to endure a second Nakba.
A milestone for Palestinian Resistance
Fifty years after the audacious 1973 surprise attack launched by Egyptian and Syrian-led Arab armies against Israel, 7 October will become a date etched in memory. This data will be significant not only for the daring Palestinian military gains in Operation Al Aqsa Flood but also as the moment when resistance forces delivered a resounding blow to western hegemony, dismantling the once seemingly impervious image of “mighty Israel.” In the region, this has not been seen since July 2006 when the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah, thwarted Israel’s every military objective in its 33-day war on Lebanon.
This facade of a formidable Israeli state, financed and armed to the teeth to safeguard Washington’s regional interests, has been exposed for the first time in 17 years. Today, a much frailer Israel, forced to call for military aid in the face of determined resistance factions, has transformed into an international liability for its western sponsors.
Predictably, following Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, Israel opted for a brutal, disproportionate reaction against Gaza’s already-besiged civilian population instead of carrying out a targeted retaliation against the armed resistance.
Several wholesale massacres have now taken place, leveling entire Palestinian neighborhoods, hospitals, and religious sites within the besieged Gaza Strip. As these crimes against humanity escalate, it is no longer just the western world providing cover for Israel’s unhinged and illegal behaviors, but also the collaboration of Arab regimes who stealthily funded the Occupation’s military-industrial complex.
The genocide in Gaza may have curbed the US and Israeli normalization project for now. And perhaps Israel’s arms sales to Arab governments have been hampered temporarily because Tel Aviv needs these weapons.
For those raptly watching for the entry of the region’s Axis of Resistance into this battle, the goal will not simply be the defeat of Israel but also the unraveling of all Arab normalization with the Occupation state. In the final analysis, Arab states will be held accountable for the funding of Israel’s war on Gaza.