(September 13, 2018 / Israel Hayom) Saudi Arabia has procured an Israeli-made Iron Dome defense system, the Persian Gulf-based Alkhaleej Online website reported on Thursday, saying the deal marks another step in the warming ties between Jerusalem and Riyadh.
Iron Dome is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to 70 kilometers (43 miles).
The system was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, and has been sold to several other countries, including Azerbaijan, India and Romania.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not maintain formal diplomatic ties and the Saudis have so far refrained from pursuing arms deals with Israel to avoid criticism in the Arab world.
According to the report, the deal will be brokered by a third party, most likely the United States, to spare Saudi Arabia such criticism.
Saudi sources told the website that the sale was the result of understandings reached between it and Israel, and that their clandestine ties have fostered sufficient trust to pursue an arms deal of this kind.
Alkhaleej Online reported that initially, Israel had refused to sell Iron Dome to the Saudis, saying that any such sale to an Arab nation would “seriously compromise Israel’s security and regional interests.”
Washington played a key role in mediating the sale through a series of secret meetings, overcoming Israel’s initial objections, according to the report.
“Saudi Arabia will pay Israel tens of millions of dollars for the Iron Dome defense system. There is a commitment that the deal will be carried out via U.S. mediation, as well as a guarantee that this system will not pose a threat to the security of Israel and its allies in the region,” one diplomatic source told the Gulf website.
According to the report, the deal is expected to be finalized by December.
The first Iron Dome battery will most likely be deployed on the Saudi-Yemen border, from where Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been firing rockets at Saudi forces.
“If Iron Dome succeeds in intercepting the rockets that pose a threat to the kingdom, there will be talks with Israel to acquire additional military systems, and this will open the door to military agreements between the two nations,” the diplomatic source said.