Major barrier remains for Israeli defence exports to China

Every time a senior Israeli figure visits China, the question is in the air. It is not discussed openly, but is in the background.

This time, the occasion is the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to China. 

In front of the cameras Netanyahu talked about a huge potential Chinese market for Israeli companies, especially in high-tech business. But again, the subject of sales of defence hardware to China was in the background.

China has wanted Israeli systems for years, but that caused tension between Jerusalem and Washington.

Government figures indicate Israeli defence companies sold military hardware worth more than $8 billion in 2012, to a long list of countries.

But in this booming export market, China, once a promising market for Israeli weapons and electronic systems, remains off limits, largely because of Israel’s ally, the US.

Washington blocked the sale of four Phalcon advanced early warning aircraft to the People’s Liberation Army in 2000, citing US components used in the systems carried by the aircraft. Beijing was furious.

In 2005, Israel agreed to upgrade Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Harpy loitering weapon systems sold to Beijing in the 1990s. The US responded again with anger.

The Americans, in many ways, still point the finger at the Chengdu J-10, China’s new air force fighter. It is alleged it is based on technologies developed by Israel for the Lavi fighter, a programme that was scrapped by Israel in 1987 as a direct result of massive pressure from Washington.

So, the issue is in the air again, if only far in the background, but all parties involved assess that if any change in US policy is possible, it will be a “long march”.

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    Major barrier remains for Israeli defence exports to China | Ariel View

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