FM thwarting sale of defense equipment to Turkey

Barak, Lieberman at odds over whether Israel should renew defense exports to Turkey which came to standstill following Cast Lead in Gaza.

July 5, 2011 03:27
1 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is preventing the sale of Israeli military platforms to Turkey, which the Defense Ministry is trying to advance as part of a bid to repair ties between Jerusalem and Ankara, defense officials said on Monday.

The officials confirmed a report first aired on Channel 2 that Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were at odds over whether Israel should renew defense exports to Turkey, which largely came to a standstill after ties between the countries deteriorated following Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009.

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In 2006, in an effort to repair ties with the United States over alleged sales to China, the Defense Ministry established a new department called the Export Licensing Authority, which is required to approve all sales overseas. The authority – known by its Hebrew acronym API – operates in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, with which it consults on sensitive arms deals.

Until 2009, Turkey was one of Israel’s largest defense customers and has purchased in the past Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicles, Israeli-upgraded tanks, and has had Israel modernize its aging fleet of F-4 Phantom fighter jets. Israel has also sold Turkey long-range targeting pods and additional advanced military systems.

“There is a fundamental disagreement over whether Israel should sell military platforms to Turkey or not,” one Israeli official said Monday.

The official said that the primary reason behind Barak’s support is the need to repair ties with Turkey, which has helped Israel in preventing the flotilla of ships – currently stuck in Greece – from sailing to the Gaza Strip.

Turkey is believed to be interested in a wide-range of Israeli military systems, including electronic-warfare systems, the Spike anti-tank missile manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the Barak 8 naval air-defense missile manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. In the past, Israel has also held talks with Turkey about the possible sale of satellites and the Arrow missile defense system.

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