Who are Israel's biggest arms suppliers and who has halted exports?

Weapons sales and military aid to the country have been under intense scrutiny as international organisations accuse it of war crimes

An Israeli tank moves along the border with Gaza on March 10, 2024. AP
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Canada will halt all arms shipments to Israel, according to its Foreign Minister, a decision that has drawn the ire of Israel as it faces growing scrutiny over its war in the Gaza Strip.

The besieged Palestinian enclave is facing a mounting humanitarian crisis, and months of war have pushed hundreds of thousands of Gazans to the brink of famine.

Key US ally Canada, which provides Israel with about $4 billion a year in military aid, had already restricted its weapons shipments to non-lethal equipment such as radios after the October 7 Hamas attack.

However, Israel could still receive at least $14 billion more in US military aid this year, depending on legislation that is held up by political deadlock.

Canada's Foreign Minister Melanie Joly told the Toronto Star newspaper on Tuesday that Ottawa planned to stop arms exports to Israel.

Israel criticised the decision, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz saying it “undermines Israel's right to self-defence against Hamas terrorists”.

“History will judge Canada's current action harshly,” he said in a post on social media platform X.

Who arms Israel?

The US remains Israel’s biggest arms supplier, accounting for 68 per cent of its weapons imports between 2013 and 2022, according to the arms transfer database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).

The US military also has stockpiles of weapons for its own use on the ground in Israel.

However, the Americans have allowed Israel to make use of some of these supplies during the war in Gaza, and previously sent some of the weapons to Ukraine.

The US also gives Israel about $4 billion in military aid annually, including about $500 million for air and missile defences.

Germany is in second place, accounting for 23.9 per cent of Israel's conventional arms procurement from 2011 to 2020, according to Sipri.

According to the German Economic Affairs and Climate Protection Ministry's 2023 Federal Government Arms Export Policy, the country's arms and military equipment sales to Israel reached $354 million in 2023, a 10-fold increase from the previous year.

The UK has traditionally been one of Israel’s top three military supporters. Britain supplies about 15 per cent of the components used in the F-35s employed in Israel's bombardment of Gaza, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, a civil society organisation.

Italy also remains one of Israel’s top arms suppliers, despite assurances last year that the government was blocking such sales following Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Italy exported $2.3 million worth of arms and munitions to Israel in the last three months of 2023. In December alone, it exported arms worth $1.41 million, three times more than in the same month in 2022.

Who has halted arms sales to Israel?

Last week, Canada said it had paused non-lethal military exports to Israel since January.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while asserting Israel's right to defend itself, has taken an increasingly critical stance of the military campaign in Gaza after the October 7 attacks by Hamas.

In Japan, the Itochu Corporation company announced on February 5 that it would end its partnership with Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems by the end of February.

Itochu plans to end the collaboration after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel in January to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and do more to help civilians, Itochu's chief financial officer Tsuyoshi Hachimura said.

Spain suspended all arms export licences to Israel, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in an interview earlier in February.

The local government of Belgium’s Walloon region announced last month it had suspended licences for the export of munitions, specifically gunpowder, to Israel after the ICJ ruling.

“The January 26 order of the ICJ, the main judicial organ of the United Nations, as well as the unacceptable deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip led the Minister-President to temporarily suspend the valid licences,” Belgian Minister of Housing Christophe Collignon said.

In the Netherlands, a court gave the government one week to block all exports of parts for the F-35 fighter jet, which Israel is using to bomb the Gaza Strip.

The Appeals Court in The Hague sided with a group of human rights organisations that argued the parts contributed to breaches of the law by Israel in its war in Gaza.

The US-owned F-35 parts are stored at a warehouse in the Netherlands and then shipped to several partners, including Israel, via existing export agreements.

Updated: March 20, 2024, 9:38 AM