Exclusive-Israel to sell air defense system to UAE, sources say

The agreement reinforces the way in which, for some Arab states, resolving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now clipped by national priorities, such as security and the economy.

Israel and the UAE, allies of the United States, share an ultimate fear that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon, an ambition that Thran denies.

Israel approved a request from the UAE in mid-summer to supply the Gulf state with SPYDER mobile interceptors made by Rafael, two sources said, declining to provide further details due to the sensitive nature of the deal.

A third source said the UAE had acquired Israeli technology capable of countering drone attacks like those that hit Abu Dhabi earlier this year.

Israel’s Defense Minister and SPYDER manufacturer, Rafael, declined to comment. The UAE foreign affairs minister did not comment.

It was not immediately clear how many interceptors, which are vehicle-mounted and can defend against short-range threats, would be provided, or if any had already been dispatched.

Asked whether Israel was supplying the UAE with air defense systems, the chairman of the parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee, Ram Ben-Barak, told Israel Radio on September 20 that there was a large cooperation with the UAE, but declined to comment further.


The need to boost the UAE’s air defense capabilities increased after a series of missile and drone strikes on the Gulf state in January and February. Most of the attacks were intercepted, but one strike killed three Abu Dhabi civilians.

The strike rattled the UAE’s leadership, which has long boasted of its security and stability in a tumultuous region, according to foreign diplomats. A terminal under construction at Abu Dhabi airport was also hit, injuring civilian workers, according to people briefed on the attacks.

At least some missiles and drones flew low to evade detection from US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot interceptors, the sources said.

Rafael claims that the SPYDER can defend large areas against threats such as drones, cruise missiles, attack aircraft, helicopters and bombers, including low altitude.

President Isaac Herzog, visiting the UAE in January when an intercepted strike took place, said Israel supported the UAE’s security needs. And last week, Prime Minister Yair Lapid said he was horrified by the attacks and that Israel stood with the UAE.

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

The sources said the interceptor deal was reached in mid-summer, around the time the United States and Israel were pushing the Arab states to link their air defense systems to better defend against attacks from Iranian drones and missiles.

The proposal has met with resistance from some Arab states with which Israel has no ties, Reuters reported in July, although an Israeli official said the partner countries were synchronizing their systems through remote electronic communications.

Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, told reporters in July that the UAE would consider anything that could protect the country from drones and missiles, as long as it was defensive and not aimed at a third country. .

The Gulf state Bahren also established ties with Israel in 2020 and the two countries subsequently signed a security agreement. Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a free trade agreement this year, Israel’s first with an Arab state. Negotiations with Bahren started this week.

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