Israel's defense diplomacy is just what the Jewish state needs - editorial

The Arrow-3 deal with Germany shows that Israel has made itself a leader of the pack in terms of defense systems.

 Israel's Arrow 3 interceptor.  (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Israel's Arrow 3 interceptor.
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)

Reports emerged Wednesday afternoon that the United States has given Israel its approval in principle to export the advanced Arrow-3 ballistic missile defense system to Germany. America has asked – as it has for years – that some battery production be in the US.

These talks came just one week after Defense Minister Benny Gantz held discussions with his American counterpart, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, to discuss the deal.

The Arrow 3, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries as a joint Israeli-US program, is one of Israel’s most advanced air-defense systems. It is capable of intercepting ballistic missiles at altitudes of over 100 kilometers, with a reported range of up to 2,400 kilometers. 

This deal – and the hype surrounding it internationally – represents something far greater than any previous defense deal for Israel. 

 GERMAN BUNDESTAG Defense Committee members visit the Arrow 3 battery. (credit: ELENT) GERMAN BUNDESTAG Defense Committee members visit the Arrow 3 battery. (credit: ELENT)

Something far greater than any previous defense deal for Israel

Germany began to eye Arrow-3 earlier this year in March, just as the Russian invasion of Ukraine was in full swing and it therefore increased its budget for defense spending. The concern in Berlin, and in much of Europe, is that the missiles landing on Ukraine could one day land in Germany. 

In September, just a few months later, Prime Minister Yair Lapid met in Berlin with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and said that “the future possible deal [on the Arrow 3] has to do with our total commitment to the safety of Germany.”

Although no deal has been signed yet, Germany has requested that the first Arrow system be operational in the country by 2025.

The deal is supposedly still on the table and being negotiated, as both Israel and the US have to approve it in order to move forward.

Nevertheless, the fact that this has reached an advanced stage shows, above all else, that Israel has made itself a leader of the pack in terms of the development of defense systems.

To be sure, several other countries have developed defense systems, especially in recent years, that would be relevant to a country like Germany. However, Scholz expressed specific interest in the systems developed in Israel.

This is not a random event, but rather targeted interest, as it is known among those focused on defense capabilities, and it bodes well for the message it is sending out into the world: that we have technology other countries wish to buy and that we are a force to be reckoned with.

At the same time, this is a huge advance in German-Israeli relations. While the two countries have been on great terms for years, a deal such as the one in progress could facilitate an even closer bond and a better-structured relationship. 

Especially now, Israel needs all the friends it can get.

With the recent elections showing that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be able to form a coalition within which extremists such as Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir would hold senior roles, Israel must strengthen and stabilize its relationships abroad before criticism inevitably begins to be directed toward this more extreme right-wing coalition.

This is why the Arrow-3 deal could create a safe base for the US and Israel as well: namely, for Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden. Netanyahu certainly did not have a good relationship with former US president Barack Obama, which was no secret. The two have, in their individual memoirs, called each other respectively “tough” and “rivals.”

Now, multiple concerns have been raised about Netanyahu’s less-than-safe relationship with the Democratic Party, intensified by comments made by State Department spokesperson Ned Price the day after Israel’s elections: “We hope all Israeli government officials will continue to share the values of open democratic society including tolerance and respect for all minority groups.”

“We hope all Israeli government officials will continue to share the values of open democratic society including tolerance and respect for all minority groups.”

Ned Price

On the diplomatic front, the Arrow-3 deal comes none too soon. It could cement the camaraderie between the US and Israel in a way that could overrule concerns within the Biden administration over the makeup of the incoming Israeli government. Such a deal is just what the Jewish state needs right now.