Israel Agreed to Sell Air Defense System to UAE

Israel has agreed a deal with the United Arab Emirates to sell an advanced air defense system, in the first such deal between the two countries since they established diplomatic ties in 2020. The deal shows how, for some Arab states, national security concerns have become a priority before resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both Israel and the UAE have a shared concern that Iran obtains a nuclear weapon.

Israel approved the UAE request to buy Rafael made SPYDER mobile interceptors in the summer. The Gulf nation is expected to acquire Israeli technology capable of combating drone attacks like those that struck Abu Dhabi earlier this year.

It is still not clear how many interceptors, which are fitted to vehicles and can defend against short to long-range threats, would be supplied, or if any had so far been shipped.

Although Israel confirms there is broad cooperation with the UAE, no official statement has been made about air defense systems.

The UAE has been looking to bolster its air defense capabilities since it was struck by a series of missile and drone attacks in January and February. Most of the attacks were intercepted, but a strike killed three civilians in Abu Dhabi.

That strike rattled the leaders of the UAE, which has long boasted of its security and stability in a tumultuous region.

At least some missiles and drones flew at low-altitude to escape detection by the UAE’s U.S.-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot interceptors.

Rafael says SPYDER can defend large areas from threats ranging from drones, cruise missiles, attack aircraft, helicopters, and bombers, including from low altitude.

The January attack took place during Israeli President Herzog’s visit. He said Israel supported UAE’s security needs. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Lapid said he was horrified by the attacks and Israel stood by and with the UAE.

Most of the strikes were claimed by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, who the UAE has been fighting against in the war in Yemen as part of the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition seeking to restore the ousted government.

The air defense deal was reached in summer, amid the U.S. and Israel pushing the Arab states to link their air defense systems to better defend against threats from Iran. The proposal was protested by some Arab states that don’t have official ties with Israel.

Gulf state Bahrain also established ties with Israel in 2020 and later the two signed a security agreement. Israel and the UAE this year signed a free trade deal; Israel’s first with an Arab state. Negotiations with Bahrain started this week.

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