Critics of taxpayer-funded US military assistance to Israel point out that the Israelis are currently a major exporter of military systems to other countries, which include some of the so-called “hostile Arab nations” that surround Israel. Israel’s sizable domestic military industry has netted sales of missile defense systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, cyber security products, radar, and electronic communications systems to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, in addition to India, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Philippines, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Brazil, and the United States.
The CRS report also includes information on increasing military ties between Israel and China. These growing ties have alarmed the US Navy, which has previously made port calls at the Israeli naval base in Ashdod on the Mediterranean coast. According to the report: “. . . a state-owned Chinese company (the Shanghai International Port Group) has secured the contract to operate a new terminal at Haifa’s seaport for 25 years (beginning in 2021), and another state-owned Chinese company (a subsidiary of China Harbor Engineering Company) is developing Ashdod’s new port. Both Haifa and Ashdod host Israeli naval bases. Due to the Chinese contract for Haifa, the US Navy is reportedly reconsidering its practice of periodically docking at the base there.” Considering the close ties between Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, it is likely that the US Navy’s objections to sharing port facilities with Chinese construction crews with be vetoed by the White House.
Israel’s status of a small country fending off hostile moves by surrounding Arab and Muslim nations beggars belief. Israel maintains close relations with Egypt, with which it has maintained diplomatic ties since 1979. Israel and Egypt jointly engage in military operations directed against jihadist groups in the Sinai Peninsula, as well as restricting access to the Gaza Strip. Israel also maintains diplomatic relations with Jordan. Low level non-diplomatic relations also exist between Israel and Bahrain (with which Israel has an intelligence-sharing relationship), Iraqi Kurdistan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia (with which Israel has an agreement to stockpile military supplies in forward operating locations in the event of a joint Israeli-Saudi-UAE attack on Iran), Oman; Djibouti; the United Arab Emirates (where Israel maintains a non-diplomatic office in Abu Dhabi), the Tobruk-based government of Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar; and the exiled government of Yemen, which is based in Riyadh. Previous non-diplomatic relations between Israel and Lebanon, Turkey, Mauritania, Maldives, Qatar and Tunisia were frozen as a result of Israeli military actions against the Palestinians and other issues. Full diplomatic relations exist between Israel and such Muslim nations as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. Israel also maintains low-level non-diplomatic and trade relations with non-Arab Muslim nations, including Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia. There are various reports of Israeli diplomats having paid covert visits to Somalia and the self-declared Somaliland.
Israel’s closer relationship with Saudi Arabia should put to rest the notion of Israel being surrounded by hostile countries. There are credible news reports that Israel has been selling the Saudis advanced military drones via South Africa. It has also been credibly reported that Israel’s Mossad and the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate (GID) maintain direct links and that Mossad facilitated the provision of the Pegasus mobile phone tracking software, manufactured by the Herzliya-based NSO Group, to the GID. Pegasus was allegedly used by GID in its murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018. Israel and the UAE and Bahrain also apparently pooled their intelligence resources to ensure a Trump administration withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the nuclear agreement with Iran – and a multinational embargo instituted against Qatar.