Gantz: Israel doesn't have production capacity to supply air defense systems to Ukraine

Israel has sent Ukraine humanitarian aid as well as medical equipment but refuses to send over any weaponry that can be deemed as lethal weaponry.

 Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, on August 6, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, on August 6, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israel does not have the production capabilities to supply Ukraine with air defense systems,  outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday.

“It is clear that even if it decided that we change our policy, it is impossible to empty our supply of air defense systems,” Gantz told reporters. “We are checking every day what can be done and how we can expand our aid, but we must not forget that NATO stands behind Ukraine.”

Israel’s air defense systems, including the Iron Dome and Arrow systems, are jointly produced with the United States. Last year Washington passed a $1 billion USD funding bill to replace the Tamir missile interceptors used in Iron Dome batteries after they were used to intercept the over 4,300 missiles fired by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021.

Gantz made the comments as Kyiv continues to push Jerusalem to supply weaponry to the country which is being battered by Russian missile strikes and attacks by Iranian-made drones supplied to Moscow.

Israel has sent over humanitarian aid as well as medical equipment but refuses to send over any weaponry that can be deemed as lethal weaponry, including air defense systems. Israel is also reported by foreign media to be helping with intelligence and has offered to help in developing early-warning systems.

 PROTESTORS HOLD signs at a demonstration supporting Ukraine, before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s video speech to the Knesset, in March.  (credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS) PROTESTORS HOLD signs at a demonstration supporting Ukraine, before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s video speech to the Knesset, in March. (credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)

Though Gantz has repeatedly said that Israel won’t be able to provide air defense systems due to  “limitations” and “a variety of operational considerations,” there are a number of non-lethal systems that can be provided.

Defense sources have said that Israel looks at what can be provided on a daily basis.

In early October Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday that Israel was to be asked for air defense systems and a letter to Israel's Foreign Ministry specified that Kyiv is interested in the Iron Beam, Barak-8, Patriot, Iron Dome, David's Sling, or Arrow Interceptor systems as well as support in training for the Ukrainian operators.

"If Israel's policy is really to consistently counter Iran's destructive actions, then it is time for Israel to openly side with Ukraine," Kuleba said. 

In addition to not having the manufacturing capacity to send over air defense systems, Israel is also concerned that any advanced weaponry that could be supplied might end up in the hands of Iran.

Russia helps Iran bring Israel's fears to fruition 

On Tuesday a report by Sky News said that Russia flew €140m in cash and captured UK and US weapons to Iran in return for over 160 drones.

According to the report, Russia flew a British NLAW anti-tank missile, a US Javelin anti-tank missile and a Stinger anti-aircraft missile to Tehran on August 20th.

"They will probably be reverse-engineered and used in future wars," a source was quoted as saying.

Iran captured a US  RQ-170 Sentinel drone in 2011 and reverse-engineered it to develop its Shahed drones, now used by the Russians in Ukraine. 

Defense sources warned that Israel, and the rest of the world, must continue to study the war in Ukraine in order to take what is most relevant and adapt it to their militaries. 

The war in Ukraine has spurred a reset of NATO posture, with allies significantly increasing their defense budget as well as sending military capabilities to Ukraine or neighboring countries. 

The war has also led non-European countries to boost their defense budget and look toward Israel for new equipment from cyber, satellites, munitions, armored personnel carriers and more.

In April, the military exports unit of the Defense Ministry said that military exports by Israel brought in $11.2 billion dollars last year, the highest figure in the past 20 years.

While the significant increase in defense exports in 2020 was not related to the war instigated by Russia, “unfortunately, the war between Russia and Ukraine once again proves to the world what has always been clear to us - that security is a national need for every country and is not a luxury,” Gantz said at the time.