Defense Minister Ehud Barak will travel to Russia next week amid Israeli concerns regarding the sale of advanced military technology to Syria and Iran.
Israel is particularly concerned over a deal to supply Syria with advanced supersonic P-800 Yakhont cruise missiles that would pose a serious threat to Israel Navy ships if transferred to Hizbullah. During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Hizbullah succeeded in striking an Israeli navy missile ship with an Iranian-supplied surface-to-sea missile.
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Barak will discuss the proposed sale of the missiles to Syria as well as a Russian request to collaborate with Israeli defense industries in the development and production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
In 2009, Russia purchased 12 drones from Israel Aerospace Industries as part of a new requirement it had issued for UAVs following its war with Georgia during which Georgian military forces operated Israeli Elbit Systems Hermes 450 UAVs.
Israel recently put plans to establish a joint venture with Russia to
manufacture UAVs on hold amid concerns regarding the transfer of
sensitive technology to Moscow.
While elements in the Defense Ministry are concerned over the possible
transfer of technology, other Israeli government officials –
particularly from the Foreign Ministry – have recommended going through
with the project as a way of tightening ties with Moscow and creating
leverage to prevent future sales to Iran and Syria.
Israel is also concerned over the possibility that Russia will follow
through with the delivery of the S-300 surfaceto- air defense system to
Russia has issued mixed messages regarding the future of the 2005 deal
in recent months, first saying that the new round of sanctions on Iran
passed by the United Nations in June would not impede the deal and later
saying that it would.
Despite the Israeli objections, a top Russian official issued a
statement on Sunday saying that Moscow would honor its deal with Syria.
“I would like to emphasize that the Russian Federation is fully honoring
its earlier agreements with Syria,” Russian presidential aide Sergey
Prikhodko told the Interfax news agency.
A senior Israeli defense official said Monday that Israel believed
Moscow would be flexible on the issue of the Syrian arms deal.
“Moscow is a very important power to us in terms of defense and
diplomacy and we see room for accommodation regarding what we want from
them and what they want from us,” the official said.