By Tom Mayer, March 28, 2017
Few Americans understand the magnitude and importance of Israel’s military-industrial complex. Israel is a small country. Its population in 2016 was 8.6 million, 75% of whom were classified as Jews and 21% were classified as Arabs. Despite its diminutive size, Israel is a formidable military power with a massive (and politically essential) military-industrial complex. Even disregarding its nuclear capacity, Israel was ranked as the world’s 11th strongest military power in 2015. And for the last eight years the Global Military Index has rated Israel as the most militarized country on earth.
Israel has received well over $100 billion in military aid from the United States since 1949, not to mention privileged access to U.S. military technology, which is probably worth far more. In addition to such lavish military assistance (from Germany, France, and England as well as the USA), Israel devotes about 6% of GDP to its military establishment. The United States spends about 4.5%. The Israeli military consumes over 15% of the government’s annual budget.
Israel specializes in the production of high technology weapons, military software, and population control systems (also called homeland security methodologies). In 2013 Israel produced 18,000 military related commodities including missiles, guided bombs, anti-missile defense systems, satellites, satellite launchers, drones, smart munitions, battlefield armor, and naval engines. Israel is the world leader in training militarized police forces and population control specialists. Having been operationally tested in Israel’s numerous military encounters and long-standing efforts to control the Palestinian people, Israel’s military and security products have high credibility and strong appeal to elites with population control problems.
Israel exports 75% of the weapons it produces. It is currently the world’s the sixth largest weapons exporter. 28% of its weapons exports are missiles, drones, or missile defense systems. Israel has weapons marketing or security training protocols with over 130 countries. 20% of Israel’s military exports go to the United States; but China, India, Poland, South Korea, Australia, and Brazil are also important weapons customers.
Five companies manufacture over 95% of the arms produced in Israel: Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel Military Industries, and Israel Weapon Industries. Elbit Systems has mixed private/government ownership while the other four companies are state owned. Israel’s military industries are closely integrated with those of the United States. Indeed, one knowledgeable observer claims that Israel’s military-industrial complex “constitutes a bonanza for the US defense industries, advancing US national security, employment, research & development and exports” (Yoram Ettinger, 2011).
Israel’s military-industrial complex plays a vital role in the country’s foreign relations. Israel routinely attempts to sell military goods and security services to any country irrespective of its human rights record or attitude towards Zionism. It hopes to make the purchasing country dependent upon Israeli military equipment, training capacities, and/or technical know-how. Once such a relationship is established, the now dependent country is less likely to criticize Israeli aggression or human rights violations. Such relations have apparently moderated criticisms of Israel by China, India, and Brazil among others.
The Israeli human rights activist-scholar Jeff Halper writes that: “Israel is by far the most conflict-prone state in modern history. It has fought six or seven interstate wars, three major Palestinian uprisings …, [and] has been involved in over 166 dyadic militarized interstate disputes….[C]ultural militarism has become part of the natural order in Israel.” For further information about the Israel’s military-industrial complex, see Halper’s important book War Against the People (Pluto Press, 2015).