JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s Defense Ministry on Thursday said it has begun talks to sell an advanced missile defense system to Germany. The announcement came two weeks after Israel said it was selling another missile defense system to NATO’s newest member, Finland.
Although Israel has long had close economic and military ties with western European countries, the latest deals could draw the attention of Russia.
Israel has repeatedly rebuffed requests to sell arms to Ukraine for fear of antagonizing Russia. It appears to be counting on the fact that the latest deals involve only defensive weapons. Israel’s Defense Ministry also noted that both deals would also need U.S. approval, because the systems have been jointly developed with the United States.
In Thursday’s announcement, the ministry said it launched “advanced negotiations” this week with its German counterparts over the purchase of the “Arrow 3,” a system designed to intercept long-range missiles outside the atmosphere.
Germany has previously expressed interest in the system and been pushing to coordinate a European air defense system with some 15 countries.
“We value the opportunity to share our capabilities with the partners and allies of the state of Israel,” said Boaz Levy, chief executive of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, the primary builder of the Arrow system. “Within the framework of this agreement, we further deepen our security ties between Israel and Germany.”
Earlier this month, the Israeli Defense Ministry said it had reached an agreement to sell its “David’s Sling” system to Finland. The system is meant to defend against medium-range aerial threats, including ballistic and cruise missiles and drones.
The deal was valued at nearly $350 million. “I am confident that the cooperation between our countries will further enhance our readiness to respond to regional and global threats,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said at the time.
While Israel has expressed support for Ukraine in its war against Russia, it has turned down requests to provide weapons. Instead, it has delivered humanitarian aid to Ukraine and promised to deliver a sophisticated air defense warning system.
Israel has a delicate relationship with Russia. It maintains security coordination with Russia in neighboring Syria – where Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian military positions in recent years. Russia is also home to a large Jewish community.
Uzi Rubin, the former director of Israel’s missile defense program, said Israeli sales of missile defense systems to Ukraine are unlikely anytime soon. But he said the deal with Finland, and likely Germany, could usher in additional sales to Europe as the continent realizes it must defend itself against the “big bad bear” of Russia.
“Europe has lived for 30 years with a kind of illusion that it has no security problems anymore,” said Rubin, who is now a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. “Now that the big bad bear is out hunting, everybody is scared.”
Associated Press reporter Sam McNeil in Jerusalem contributed to this report.