Israel hopes to foster backdoor diplomacy with Saudi Arabia at event, amid record year for defense exports and against backdrop of Ukraine war
For the first time since the signing of the Abraham Accords, Israel is set to participate in the upcoming Bahrain International Airshow (BIAS).
The air show, which is taking place November 9-11 and is the largest of its kind in the Gulf, will showcase the latest military and civil technologies in the global aerospace industry. The biennial event at Sakhir Air Base in Bahrain sees over 50,000 visitors from the Middle East and the world, including government officials and businesspeople.
ISDEF – Israel’s largest annual defense, homeland security and cyber exhibition and a member of the Avnon Group – is coordinating and organizing the first-ever Israeli pavilion at the BIAS.
Dozens of leading Israeli firms will display their products, including Rafael, Elbit, and Israel Aerospace Industries.
“This is the first time since the signing of the Abraham Accords that Israeli companies will be able to exhibit in the BIAS,” Mati Weinberg, CEO of ISDEF, told The Media Line. “We think this is a very good opportunity to develop ties between Israel and Bahrain in these sectors. It is also going to provide a backdoor to fostering ties with Saudi Arabia and other countries that Israeli companies had previously been unable to meet or conduct business with upfront.”
The event will feature a wide range of innovative technologies in the aerospace arena, from counter-drone solutions to civil aviation products.
The Israeli firm SpacePharma, for example, will present a unique miniaturized lab for pharmaceutical research and development projects in space. The lab is adjusted to function in low-gravity conditions and can be remotely controlled from a ground station by scientists running experiments. SpacePharma has already flown in seven missions with SpaceX and NASA, among others.
“Since it will be Israel’s first time at the show, many curious visitors will be drawn to our pavilion,” Weinberg said.
According to Weinberg, Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel, Khaled Yousif Al Jalahma, was instrumental in facilitating Israel’s participation in the show.
The Bahrain air show, Al Jalahma wrote in a statement that was shared with The Media Line, “is a great opportunity for ISDEF and Israeli aviation and aerospace companies to meet with industry peers and customers, to showcase their technologies, promote initiatives, create business networking opportunities, and participate in the civil and military delegations’ programs as part of the event.”
“We believe that the participation of Israeli Aviation and Aerospace companies at Bahrain International Air Show (BIAS) is an important milestone in strengthening the relationship between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Israel,” Al Jalahma wrote in the statement.
The air show comes against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine and Russia’s recent use of Iranian drones to carry out deadly strikes across the country. Earlier this week, Kyiv accused Moscow of purchasing even more advanced Iranian weaponry in the form of Arash-2 exploding drones, which are said to have a range of over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles). Iranian sources claim that that specific drone is equipped with a jet engine.
Israel is widely seen as a leader in counter-drone, counter-UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), and missile defense technology. A senior Ukrainian told The New York Times on Sunday that Israel is providing Kyiv with “useful intelligence” on Iranian exploding drones.
The war in Ukraine, Weinberg noted, has led to a surge in interest in Israeli defense technology.
“[The situation in] Ukraine and Russia has led to significant changes in other countries’ defense needs and their wanting to meet with Israeli companies,” he revealed. “With regards to our plans for [our expo] in 2023, we have heard many officials from several countries discussing the situation.”
Israel has also seen a spike in defense exports since the Russian invasion.
Germany, for instance, has expressed an interest in purchasing Israel’s Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile defense system to defend against possible Russian aggression. If the deal materializes it is expected to help Israel set a new record for defense exports for 2022 following an all-time record high of $11.3 billion in sales for 2021, according to the Defense Ministry.