In the dying days of the Harper government, days before the election call, Canadian Defence Minister Jason Kenney announced a plan to give Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) a large contract with the Canadian Department of Defense. IAI (which is wholly owned by the Israeli government) co-produces the Iron Dome missile defence system, along with Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, also an Israeli government corporation. Iron Dome is a radar system that allows Israeli military forces to detect and shoot down the primitive rockets fired at Israel by militants in occupied Gaza. It has been criticised as having limited coverage, and being very expensive. Its development was largely financed by US subsidies, which were always controversial because of the cost.
The $250,000,000 plan would buy technology from the Israeli arms company for Iron Dome-based radar technology related to ‘incoming threats to Canadian forces’. The exact nature of the technology is ambiguous, and there was little to indicate that the Canadian government was in the market for the technology prior to the plan being announced. It is uncertain what incoming threats that Canadian forces would face in the realistic scenarios they might be faced with. While Iron Dome is effective at downing relatively slow rockets fired at a distance, it hasn’t in the past worked for rockets fired at close range and might not work for faster missiles. In its recent deployment in Afghanistan most ‘incoming’ threats were rifle fire and mortar rounds, not rockets.
There appears to have been no call for proposals, and no plan for competitive bidding. The actual contract would be carried out largely by Rheinmetail Canada, a German company without much record of activity in Canada.
Developers of Iron Dome have been searching for money to develop further the technology underlying Iron Dome for a variety of purposes. A US Senate report has called for more technology transfer to the US, if it is to continue to fund the project. It is hard to avoid the implication that Canadian government money will be used to further develop Israeli proprietary technology, without Canadian equity participation, and without safeguards to prevent the technology being used in the continuing illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. Was it part of a backroom deal to subsidise Israel’s arms trade, as US funding becomes less reliable?
While the deal was covered in a variety of Israeli mainstream news sources, and Canadian Jewish media, it was not covered by Canadian media, despite the controversial timing of the deal and the size of the contract.