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Israel - Largest Arms Supplier to Georgia

26.05.2008 14:39 reports referring to newspaper Haartz that as of today Georgia became real “Eduardo” for Israeli arms dealers and numerous representatives of Tzahal and intelligence services.

Major General (Rtd) Israel Ziv, Brigadier (Rtd) Gal Ghirsh, former General Director of “Israel Military Industries” (TAAS) Shlomo Milo, former Defense Ministry Representative in Germany David Shoval, arms dealer Hezi Betzalel – this list is a small part of the Israelis working today in Georgia.

The requests of the Georgian Defense Ministry distributed among the arms dealers includes 70 million rifle cartridges, tanks, APCs, helicopters, UAVs, fire control systems, night-vision devices, etc. All this stuff is to be shipped urgently.

Author of the article in Haaretz Yossi Melman believes that Israel is an ideal choice for Georgia aspirating to NATO, which army is armed with obsolete Soviet weapons. Firstly, Israel sells arms practically to everybody who needs them. Secondly, it is the Western-made arms used in many NATO countries. Thirdly, Israel has an opportunity as an intermediate option to upgrade the obsolete Soviet arms. Fourthly, Israel has an influential Georgian lobby.

Yet the first efforts to sell arms to Georgia were recorded as far back as 1991, an actual breakthrough to the Georgian market occurred after pro-Western President Mikhail Saakashvili came to power. Melman writes that Israel supplied arms to Georgia avoiding publicity not to annoy Russia, yet that time it became the largest supplier to the Georgian Defense Ministry alongside with Ukraine.

According to Haaretz, the first large scandal took place after a Georgian UAV of Israeli “Elbit Maarahot” was shot down in the aerospace of Abkhazia. The company avoided any comment about the deals with Georgia however the sources in the arms market confirmed that the cost of arms supplied to Georgia by “Elbit” totals 100 million Dollars.

As of today, Israel supplies to Georgia various defensive systems and equipment, however about eighteen months ago the corporation made an effort to supply tanks “Merkava” to Georgia but the effort was clamped down by the Foreign Ministry concerned over deterioration of relations with Russia.