Israel cuts defense sales to Georgia

Georgian minister to 'Post': Move a result of Russian pressure on J'lem not to sell certain items.

Georgian soldiers 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Georgian soldiers 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel has "diminished" its military sales to Georgia following Russian pressure on Jerusalem, Israeli and Georgian officials said on Wednesday. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post by phone, Georgia's Integration Minister, Temur Yakobashvili, who is Jewish, said, "What I know is that [while] relations continue, there are some [military] items Israel is unwilling to sell to Georgia. And the reason for that is the Russian consideration." The minister added, "I definitely would not call it an embargo. Rather, it is taking political instability into consideration." Israeli defense firms have in the past supplied Georgia with a range of products and services, included unmanned aerial vehicles. A number of elite Georgian troops had been trained by former Galilee Division commander Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch on behalf of the Homat Magen defense company, which he founded. But after the Russian-Georgian war of November 2008, Moscow has applied heavy pressure on Jerusalem to curtail such deals. A source from the Ministry of Defense confirmed that "Russian complaints" had resulted in a "diminishing" of defense sales to Georgia. The source stressed, however, that "all applications" for new defense contracts from Tbilisi would be considered, adding that Israel would "uphold all past commitments." Some 85 percent of Israeli defense production is exported, while the remainder is utilized by the IDF. In 2008, around $7 billion in revenue from defense sales poured into Israel, the source said. So far this year, $3b. have already been secured in defense contracts. Next week will see the launch of the 48th Paris Air Show, which be attended by 12 Israeli companies, including Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elbit Systems. Israel has over 600 defense exporters, from small security firms providing guidance to clients, to giant firms selling tanks and warplanes. According to the defense source, Israel is keen on increasing military trade with countries in South America and Africa. Many developing countries have shown interest in securing defense contracts with Israeli suppliers, the source added. He said that human rights concerns and national security issues, as well as US concerns that American technology does not fall into certain hands, placed constraints on the trade. Also on Wednesday, David Arzi, Chairman of the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, called on Israeli aerospace and space exporters to focus marketing efforts on emerging markets in Asia, in light of expected cuts in the US defense budget.