(Note: a portion of this article was based on this briefing paper, author unknown, which was then expanded)
Despite its rapid growth and extreme assertiveness, Israel’s arms industry is completely dependent on the cooperation of the EU and NATO. 75% of Israeli arms sales are to foreign militaries. Israel sees Europe as a major market.
Many military products are highly technological and are made from parts from many suppliers in many countries. Furthermore their use must involve matching the interoperability standards of various military organisations, especially NATO. Furthermore, Israel must retain access to technological transfer, the right to have technology which is denied to ‘enemies’ of the US, and European countries.
Without access to widely enhanced and protected trade, without access to standards, without access to trade opportunities, without access to research results, Israel’s arms industry would wither and die.
Despite the fact that Israel is a major competitor to European defence industries, and despite Israel being in violation of many European and UN policies and directives, Israel has been given favoured nation status in many European defence initiatives.
Here is an account of some of the research grants to Israeli companies with a role in the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Palestine.
Some of the means by which Israel maintains its integration with European and North American arms industries are as follows:
European Security Research Programme. ESRP is a joint security research programme of EU members and invited non members. Israel is the most active non member participant. Although it has to pay to be a member, Israel benefits by being able to contribute to the control of the defence research programmes of the EU, and to make widespread contacts among the defence and security industries. As well, it has access to the research that is produced. The ESRP is active in promoting drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) for military and civilian purposes, and this merges nicely with Israel’s key position as the world’s (arguably) lead drone producer. As a ‘associated country’ Israel has a role in evaluating projects under the ‘Seventh European Framework Programme (FP7).” As a result, FP7 is the second largest academic research funder in Israel.
Frontex. Frontex is the ESRB agency charged with coordinating research specifically related to border security. Much of Frontex’s interest at present is with respect to drones, where Israeli has a leading role.
Capecon. (Civil Applications and Economical Effectiveness of Potential UAV Configurations) Elbit Systems is part of this multinational project to develop UAVs for civlian use.
Clean Sky Project. The Clean Sky Project is aimed at more environmentally friendly aircraft engines. Israel Aerospace Industries participates, and will be eligible to take out patents on innovations developed in this programme.
Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows.
“The framework programme is designed to improve management of migratory flows at the level of the European Union and to strengthen solidarity between Member States. It has four dimensions. The first concerns integrated management of external borders, with the setting up of an External Borders Fund. The second concerns asylum policy, with the prolongation of the European Refugee Fund. The third concerns the social, civic and cultural integration of Non-EU Member Country nationals, with the setting up of a European Integration Fund. The fourth concerns the fight against illegal immigration and the return of Non-EU Member Country nationals residing illegally in the EU, with the setting up of a European Return Fund.” (Source)
Despite the fact that Israeli policy with respect to migration of people under its direct control is extremely contentious in European terms, Israel is a participant in this programme.
European Space Programme. The European Space Program has a large defence component. However Israel’s participation is not large. How important this is to Israel is illlustrated by the following passage from NatureNews:
“Israel has no formal agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA), and that prevents Israel from participating in many other ESA projects. Ben-Israel and others told the committee that investing in ESA membership is vital if Israeli space research and industry is to grow.
Dan Blumberg, head of the department of geography and environmental development at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel, adds that the lack of government investment in space research and development makes university-based researchers more dependent on country’s military industries and satellite programmes. However, military secrecy prevents the publication of much research done through military–academic cooperation.” (Source)
This illustrates how integrated the Israeli Space Agency is with the Israeli military and Israeli arms companies. While deeper association association with the European Space Agency would allow Israeli space scientists some distance from their own arms industry, it would also allow their arms companies more access to European research.
In 2007 Israel and the ESA entered into negotiations on a framework agreement for Israeli participation in the European civilian space programme.
In July, 2010, the Israeli government announced the intention of spending $77 million to jump start the ‘civilian’ space industry in Israel, ‘to help the 25 Israeli firms in the civilian space sector expand their market.’ (source) (It isn’t stated whether some of those 25 firms are also firms involved in the military space industry).
Israel also has myriad research and cooperation agreements with NATO.
This is largely under the unbrella of the Individual Cooperation Programme, (ICP), which details the nature of cooperation in the following areas:
“counterterrorism, including the exchange of intelligence and security expertise, increasing the number of joint NATO-Israel military exercises, broadening cooperation in the fight against nuclear proliferation, improving cooperation in the areas of armament and logistics, connecting Israel electronically to the NATO system” (source)
Israel has adopted the NATO Codification System, allowing it to have part and parts ordering systems compliant with NATO standards.
Israel participates actively on many NATO exercises, for example Operaton Active Endeavour.
There have been efforts in the European parliament to end EU military cooperation with Israel, especially after the January 2009 attacks on Gaza. Here is one. However here is the amended text, which doesn’t call for suspension of military cooperation. In fact, the resolution has been gutted.
In early 2010 there was a conference the Herzliya Conference, The US-Europe-Israeli Trilateral Relationship: The Strategic Dimension, which made it clear just how important to Israel that military relationships with the EU and NATO are to Israel.