Funding its own defense projects on the strength of international arms sales has become an increasingly important strategic way of ensuring it the economic capacity to support military needs which are considerable for a nation of its decidedly modest geographical size.
But this also points to another important part of Israel's geopolitical outlook. As a nation often viewed with hostility and contempt by its neighbors and the orbit of natural gas buyers that have allied themselves with these neighbors for economic reasons, Israel's newfound status as an important international arms supplier is softening its relationship with many powerful nations. Altering the course of interests and sympathies of such nations may go a long way to help support Israeli diplomatic goals as well as to solidify its status and alliances in the world community. This is amply demonstrated by its importance to the Russian market in terms of weapons supply. Historically, Russia has allied itself with Israel's enemies as a strategic counterpoint to America's sympathies toward Israel. The relationship forged between Israel and Russia today has prefigured a warming of relations and a change in Russian geopolitical priorities where the state of Israel is concerned.
Indeed, the significant sphere of influence carried by Russia is opening up other parts of the world to softer diplomatic and economic relations with Israel, frequently as a result of the opportunities suggested by Israel's considerable arms manufacturing capability. Countless former states of the Soviet Union, who have almost universally maintained hostile and non-normalized relations with Israel on account of their political culture or their commitment (as we approach the landmass known as Central Asia) to substantial Muslim populations. The needs represented by Israel's growing arms manufacturing capabilities are producing a change in this regard though. For instance, "in September 2008, Haaretz reported that the Israeli defense ministry had signed several contracts "worth hundreds of millions dollars" with the Azerbaijani government for machine guns with ammunition, howitzers, artillery/rocket pieces and defense communication systems armament. The newspaper also reported that howitzers and grenade launchers from a joint Israeli-Kazakhstani project would be supplied to Azerbaijan." (Abbasov, 1)
In spite of these positive steps, Israel continues to face massive opposition both from within and outside of its borders. As a result the continued occupations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian inhabited but Israeli controlled territories since the resolution of the 1967 war, have since evolved into circumstances which amount to the denial of Palestinian statehood. Though Israel's direct behavior is traditionally targeted as the cause of this impasse, ineffective and irresolute Western intervention, a failure to accept compromise on the part of the Palestinians' Arab state allies and a host of self-interested foreign power plays have typically combined to play a prevailing role in the historical impotence of the peace process.
In the time which has passed since, the process has experienced ebb and flow in terms of success, often as a result of the same international efforts which have at points stood in the way of this peace. Accordingly, "Yitzhak Rabin's electoral victory in June 1992 was universally interpreted as the first step in a revived peace process." (Rabinovich, 44) and indeed, the 1993 Oslo Accords, brokered between he and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat by the U.S., illustrated the promise of the movement for peace. Rabin's 1996 assassination dashed such hopes and today, amid a global war on terror and with Israel under a militant body of leadership as a result, the question of the Palestinian future is still very much in doubt. As that continues to be the case, Israel's relationship with the Palestinians, with its Arab neighbors and with the process of peace will be strained and perilous.
This is something which has had direct consequences for all nations in the world, with the conflict today functioning as a centerpiece in the case that many so-called 'terrorist' organization have made against Israel and the West. Indeed, as the U.S. descended into global ignominy during the Bush era, this would also become a lightning rod of criticism on the part of Russia and such European critics as France and Germany. And for increasingly Islamic populations in these nations and in the U.K., governmental support of the U.S. And Israel has been met with popular outrage. Thus, the peace process today, which has seen glimmers of hope in such round table discussion as that held in Annapolis in 2008, remains largely derailed due to the complexity of outside interests. The issues that are today destructive for Israel and devastating to the people of the Palestinian territories are deeply tied into the desires and ambitions of so many other nations that the stall pattern which persists today can be equally attributed to failures on the part of the global community as well as the two primary parties today engaged in clenched fist diplomacy.
Perhaps this is best captures by the hostility that is foremost in the minds of Israeli defense administrators, who are working now to navigate Israeli policy through the mire of a radicalizing and potentially nuclear Iran. Iran's long-standing isolation from the west and its representative leadership as the most stable of Islamic theocracies in the region have made it a genuine threat, and as the United States and other western nations attempt to bring Iran into the fold of the world community, Israel must continue to design a defense policy which bears Iran in mind. Again, as we look at its current outlook and the reason for its recent heightening of expenditures in this area, Iran and its pronounced hostility toward the state of Israel remains highly relevant to its decisions. Indeed, tensions are extremely high at this juncture between Israel and Iran. As DTN News (2009) reports, "with eyes firmly fixed on Iran's nuclear progressions, the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to bomb the country's enrichment facilities out of existence. Tel Aviv accuses Tehran of nuclear weapons development - a charge rejected by both Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog, which has so far made '21 unannounced inspections' of the country's nuclear facilities." (DTN News, 1)
The reality for Israel as it makes key decisions with respect to its military technology orientation is that it must address a set of challenges which have in many ways intensified over the last decade of heightened conflict between the Muslim world and the West. Circumstances in the Palestinian territories and with respect to neighbors like Lebanon and Iran have reached new heights in terms of rhetoric and policy orientation, justifying -- in the perspective of many of its military leaders -- Israel's continued ratcheting up of defense capabilities, military communication dexterity and technology innovation in the areas of weaponry.
Israeli Defense Technology:
The discussion on Iran is of particular importance as we focus on Israel's defense technology interests. Iran has been a major forum for the international debate on nuclear development and the proliferation of ballistic capabilities throughout so-called rogue nations. Through its non-alignment and its declared interest in seeing the state of Israel destroyed, Iran's efforts at developing greater missile capabilities and nuclear weaponization have become a legitimate statement of threat to the West. Israel is often seen as the most immediate point of access for Arab states wishing to demonstrate hostilities toward the United States and its friends and allies. This is an awareness that has driven Israeli military policy with respect to the emphases pursued in the development of defense technology. As Potter denotes, "a priority is obviously defense against ballistic missiles from Iran and Israel has been working on their own system, Arrow, for about two decades. The United States has aided in developing this system through research, technology and funding. It had been thought that possibly with the new Obama administration's focus on cutting defense spending that Arrow would not be funded. Right now this turns out not to be true for the next year at least with Arrow 3 receiving full U.S. planned money." (Potter, 1)
This helps to underscore one of the major reasons for Israel's continued performance in this area above that which might be expected for its scale, size and region. The strategic importance of Israel to the United States as a partner in a region otherwise populated by hostile parties or inconsistent allies has made it a primary interest for the United States to aid Israel's military fortitude in whatever ways possible. In the area of defense technology, early and continued support from the United States has been important in defining Israel's security capabilities. This has been especially so in the last 20 years, where the end of the Cold War would allow the United States to focus on empowering Israel against smaller regional enemies (as opposed to the imposing presence of the Soviet Union in the region). The result would be a set of major military contracts between the two nations such as occurred in the early 1990s, when American President Clinton shared a particularly intimate relationship…