Alwaght- Militarily in a tight spot due to their involvement in Ukraine war, the European countries are trying to reverse their arms shortages through other actors by any means. Addressing this need, the Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited Germany on Wednesday to sign the biggest military deal of Israeli history. During his visit to Berlin, Gallant sealed a $3.5 billion deal to provide Germany with Arrow 3 air defense systems. According to the Israeli media, during the trip, he discussed security threats and regional challenges in West Asia and Europe.
Boaz Levy, CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries, said this anti-missile battery is a mobile system and can be moved based on threats. Moshe Patel, the director of Israel Missile Defense Organization, said this system “will defend all of Germany, and then some beyond” after it goes fully operational by 2030.
Having in mind that the Arrow anti-missile system project was jointly developed between the Israeli regime and the US Missile Defense Agency, in August, the US State Department approved the sale of the Allow 3 to Germany. Germany said it expects its air force to receive a batch of the missile interceptors by the fourth quarter of 2025.
The Arrow 3 is a type of anti-ballistic defense system and has a higher ability to intercept ballistic missiles than the similar American-made Patriot systems. The purchase of this system will be completed in two years to provide better protection to Germany and its neighbors against any possible missile, according to sources. These guided missiles can destroy enemy long-range missiles with a direct strike outside the atmosphere, an altitude that allows safe engaging of unconventional warheads.
Some experts think that this system is part of the ‘European Sky Shield’ initiative, which has gained a lot of demand in Europe after the Ukraine war. Then German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht and her counterparts from 14 European countries signed a MoU on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels in October 2022 to create a joint air defense system to counter so-called threats from Russia. This air defense system has worried Washington because it considers it parallel to the NATO alliance that can ultimately weaken the role and position of the US as an effective actor on European soil.
Ukraine, the possible final destination of Arrow 3
Since any European arms deals pertain to Ukraine war, it is not unlikely that Arrow 3 will end up on the Ukrainian battlegrounds, because this deal is struck only a weeks after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told the the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the UNGA sidelines that he had many expectations from him and his cabinet for helping Ukraine in the war, and the Israeli PM pleaded lethal weapons deliveries to Kiev.
Negotiations on the purchase of this missile system began last year after the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine, and its conclusion can help Kiev in the current situation as it is facing an arms crisis.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Zelensky has always asked the Israeli authorities to provide Kiev with the Iron Dome air defense and radar systems so that they can counter the Russian attacks, but Tel Aviv has not agreed to this request, because the Tel Aviv authorities are extremely afraid of the Russian sensitivity to arms aids to Ukraine.
Last year, after it was revealed that a number of Israelis were fighting against the Russians alongside the Ukrainian forces, tensions between Moscow and Tel Aviv heightened and the relations between the two sides became tense. Russia shut down the office of the Jewish Agency, an organization responsible for attracting Jews from around the world to the occupied territories, in Moscow in an attempt to show Tel Aviv that it has to pay a heavy price for helping Kiev.
The Israeli officials were concerned that in the absence of the Jewish Agency, the path of the migration of the Russian Jews to the Israeli regime will be difficult, and to prevent further tensions, they rejected Zelensky’s demand. Israeli military commanders believe that sending Iron Dome to Ukraine means friction with Russia. Last year, the Kremlin officials warned the Israelis that if Israel provides Ukraine with arms, Moscow will take it as an unfriendly action that will totally ruin bilateral relations.
The previous Israeli leaders denied Ukraine any direct or indirect aid, but since the hardline government of Netanyahu took office, Tel Aviv has somewhat revised its policies towards Ukraine and it is now trying to deliver military aids to its ally in various ways. Given the fact that the Russians are carefully monitoring any foreign aids to Ukraine, if it is confirmed that the Israeli anti-missile system will be used against the Russians, it can intensify the tensions between Moscow and Tel Aviv, and Russia may use its options to punish Israel, something Netanyahu is severely afraid of.
One of the Russian reciprocal measures can be strengthening the Syrian army next to Israeli borders to pose a serious threat to the Israeli security. Power boost of the Syrian army means that Israel cannot easily carry out attacks on the Syrian territory anymore, and even it is likely that Syria will target the occupied territories and liberate the occupied Golan after 56 years in response to the Israeli warmongering of the last decade.
Another issue Tel Aviv fears is the Russian expansion of military cooperation with Iran, a country with which Russian relations saw a new chapter after Ukraine war. Over the past years, Netanyahu visited Moscow several times to convince the Kremlin to scale down partnership with the Iranians.
Indirect Israeli involvement in Ukraine war
Despite the fact that the Israeli and German officials claim that the Arrow 3 deal is meant to protect eastern parts of Germany and parts of Europe, some pieces of evidence suggest that Ukraine can be the final destination for the batteries. In mid-June German parliament’s Committee for Defense Affairs gave a green light for the purchase of this air defense system. German sources at the time said that the buying will be financed by a special €100 billion fund founded for the German military after start of Ukraine war. Therefore, since the budget for the deal is provided by the Ukraine war fund, it is obvious enough that Berlin’s main aim is to help Kiev, and the US go-ahead to the deal bears witness to this fact. .
Last January, the New York Times reported that “the Pentagon is tapping into a vast but little-known stockpile of American ammunition in Israel to help meet Ukraine’s dire need for artillery shells in the war with Russia”— the same ammunition the US uses for its Middle Eastern conflicts. To justify this move, Tel Aviv at the time claimed that these weapons were outdated and belonged to the American army, but in fact, due to the reduction of Western weapons arsenals, Washington had asked non-Western allies to help Ukraine in this war, and some countries, including South Korea and Australia, sent aids.
Ukraine war highlighted the shortage of air defenses, including long-range Patriot and the medium-range IRIS-T batteries. So, the Arrow 3 can help the Westerners fill the void. That is to say this missile system can end up in Ukraine hands through Germany, and with this, Tel Aviv will help its ally and at the same time steer clear of Russian anger to a large extent.
Since there are no clear prospects for end of Ukraine conflict and as the Western officials say NATO should brace for a long-term confrontation with Russia, the West needs Israeli weapons and those of other allies to cope with the crisis it instigated.