Idex 2021: First Israeli arms companies debut at defence expo

A handful of manufacturers and sellers were able to make it Abu Dhabi this week

Israeli delegates made their first appearance at the region's showpiece defence exhibition on Monday.

A handful of exhibitors selling assault rifles to anti-missile systems managed to make it to Idex 2021 in Abu Dhabi this week.

Covid-19 curbs in Israel prevented most of its companies travelling despite a last-minute appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Some exhibitors who were already within the Gulf region, and others who travelled from outside of Israel, were able to attend.

And the popularity of its stands spoke not only to the novelty of seeing an Israeli flag at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, but also the reputation of its technology.

A stream of visitors in military fatigues made their way through the Rafael pavilion, with its Spyder mobile air-defence system one of the most popular exhibits.

The Avnon Group was also showcasing its anti-drone technology, while next door Emtan was displaying its Israel assault rifles and pistols.

"It is very important that we are here," Ron Pollak, vice president of sales and marketing, told The National.

“Commercially, it will be a very big market for us. We are excited to be here. It is the first time for me and the first time for Emtan.”

At least 95 per cent of the company’s business is military and law enforcement.

One of its main products is the MZ-4 assault rifle which is suited to harsh environments such as sand and low temperatures.

The MZ-4 was being studied by many visitors. While Mr Pollak would not be drawn on a price for each one, he expected sales at Idex.

“Our aim is to give the local military and law enforcement the best and most reliable weapons.”

Close to 50 Israeli companies were set to attend Idex, but exhibitors privately said about 20 per cent of them made it.

Israel closed its airspace nearly three weeks ago to slow the spread of Covid-19 and an exceptions committee denied the companies special permission to fly.

The Israeli government imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, while also running one of the world’s best vaccination programmes. It announced in the past few days an easing of restrictions due to the early success of the initiative.

Covid interruptions aside, Israel's head of mission to the UAE, Eitan Na'eh, told The National his country's participation was an important moment.

“It feels great. We are pinching ourselves,” said Mr Naeh.

“They built the pavilion and there are representatives. It was a small fraction but we are going into elections and we are fighting Covid and we need to beat Covid.”

When asked what Israel generally brought to the defence table, he  highlighted air defence while underlining this was not being discussed as a deal.

“The things we do are cutting edge. We bring technology and experience," he said.

"Who else has multilayered missile defence? Our capabilities are known.”

Mr Naeh said while the pavilion was slimmed down, participation spoke to the normalisation of ties between the UAE and Israel ushered in by the Abraham Accords last year.

“Beyond the fact two countries are getting closer together, everything here has not small ripples but big ripples in the whole region," he said.

"The scope of relations will hopefully serve as a model for other Arab countries. A Gordian knot was cut and the sky didn’t fall.”

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