Bill to up control on defense exports

Follows defense ministry decision to increase supervision of foreign deals.

spyder air defense  248 88 (photo credit: Ministry of Defense)
spyder air defense 248 88
(photo credit: Ministry of Defense)
In an effort to avoid future diplomatic clashes with the United States over Israeli defense exports, the Defense Ministry announced plans on Sunday to bring a new bill entitled - "Defense Exports Supervision" - to the Knesset this week for a first reading. The new bill, senior defense officials involved in its drafting said, would align Israel with other Western countries and increase supervision on defense exports. The submission by the Defense Ministry follows a decision earlier this year to establish The Department of Supervision Over Defense Exports as an additional level of supervision alongside the Foreign Defense Assistance and Defense Export Organization (SIBAT). The new division is led by Eli Pinko - former head of the Israeli defense mission to France. In December 2004, a major crisis erupted between Israel and the US after Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) received Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from China for what Israel said were standard repairs. The Pentagon claimed Israel was being deceitful and that the UAVs were sent to IAI for upgrading. In August 2005, the crisis was resolved after Israel and the US signed a Memorandum of Understanding that ended the crisis but effectively granted the US a say in Israeli arms sales to selected countries. One of the unwritten conditions was also the dismissal of long-time Defense Ministry Dir.-Gen. Amos Yaron. The new bill - drafted by Defense Ministry legal adviser Zvia Gross and attorney Gideon Meretz - would also be applicable to Israeli arms brokers outside of Israel who make illegal sales to countries under UN arms embargos. The inclusion of this section in the draft bill - under Chapter 9 - makes Israel one of the leading and strictest supervisors worldwide when it comes to arms brokerage. "The new bill boosts confidence throughout the world in Israeli supervision on defense exports," a ministry official told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. According to the official, Israel consulted with several countries - including the US - with regard to the regulations cited in the draft bill. The bill also proposes Israel adopt the control lists from the Wassenaar Arrangement on exports control - an international agreement by 40 countries, including the US and Russia, concerning the types of arms and defense equipment that require supervision. While Israel is not a signatory to the agreement, the new bill would require adherence to the agreement's munitions list. "This bill puts us on the same level with the most advanced laws on defense export regulations around the world," the official said. The bill also stipulates Foreign Ministry participation in oversight committees on defense exports. According to defense officials, the integration of Foreign Ministry officials into the export process is an international norm adopted by many Western countries. The bill also raises the fine involved from a maximum of several hundred thousand shekels to NIS 10 million. The bill also calls for exporters to be listed in a registry before receiving approval for specific requests.