China and Israel defence ties – signs of change?

Is this the beginning of a new era indefence relations between China and Israel?

The visit this week of Israeli defenceminister Ehud Barak to China has a meaning but it’s very early to know exactlywhat it is.

The defence relations between the twocountries were cut some years ago, after Israel angered the US through twoincidents involving the sale of Israeli air systems to China.

The first was the sale of an Israel AerospaceIndustries (IAI) Phalcon type airborne early warning (AEW) system to China.Washington foiled the deal after the aircraft was ready for delivery, and theIsraeli government in 2002 agreed to pay $350 million to China as compensationfor the scrapped contract.

The Phalcon AEW deal was followed in 2005by a deal to upgrade the IAI Harpy attack drones that were sold to China manyyears ago. Washington was angered by the deal and put a heavy lid on the saleof additional military hardware to China.

The two incidents occurred against a backgroundof media reports that the Chinese J-10 fighter “resembled” the IAILavi fighter that ended in the junkyard as a result of very heavy pressure fromWashington. The Lavi programme was brought to an end in 1987.

Barak’s visit this week is the first of itskind after a few years of complete detachment.

Israeli observers said that it is unlikelythat Washington will take the leash off the Israeli defence industries’ necksin relation to the Chinese market, but they added it could signal that a changeis on the horizon.

It will take some time until we are able tosee if something really has changed in the situation that hermetically sealed theChinese defence market for the Israeli aerospace and defence industries.

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