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  • Ari Sacher

France Bans Israeli Companies from Eurosatory Defense Trade Show

Eurosatory: Ask anyone from the defense world where he or she will be between June 17-21, and he or she will probably answer, “In Paris.” Every two years, Paris hosts the Eurosatory Defense Trade Show, what is referred to as “The Global Event for Defence and Security.” 

Eurosatory is held at the Paris Nord Villepinte Exhibition Center, adjacent to the Charles de Gaulle Airport northeast of Paris. Anybody who is anybody in defense wants to be in Paris for Eurosatory. One obvious reason is that the event is in Paris. Another reason is that Eurosatory is one of the biggest defense trade shows in the world. In 2022, it gathered over 1,700 exhibitors and approximately 62,000 visitors from 150 countries. High-ranking officials from around the world are always in attendance, and the defense industries come out in full force with lavish stands, full-size exhibits, and free intoxicating beverages. If a company wants to make a big announcement, say, about a new product, Eurosatory is the perfect place. 

Israel is a short four-hour flight from Paris, so Israeli defense contractors come to Eurosatory in large numbers. Most Israeli companies locate their exhibits in an Israeli pavilion. This year, 74 Israeli defense industries, led by the “Big 3” – Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit and RAFAEL – were all lined up to exhibit their wares at Eurosatory. And, yes, I was part of the RAFAEL contingent. 

Then, the unexpected happened. Three weeks before the beginning of the trade show, the French government suddenly banned all Israeli companies from participating. "Following a decision by government authorities, there will not be an Israeli stand at the Eurosatory 2024 salon," a spokesperson for Eurosatory said. The French Defence Ministry told Reuters that: "Conditions are no longer met to host Israeli companies at the show at a time when the President [Emanuel Macron] is calling for Israel to cease operations in Rafah [in the Gaza Strip]." Other than the adverse French reaction to Israel’s War in Gaza, another reason suggested for the decision was the threat of mass protests against the Israeli delegation and the heightened security that accompanies Israeli contingents. Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz said he had asked French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to intervene on the issue. Gantz wrote on X, “I emphasized to him that the decision ultimately rewards terror and asked that France reconsider the decision.” Minister Ganz’s intervention was unsuccessful, and the Israeli contingent will not attend Eurosatory. And that’s final. Other than the cost of lost future business by not attending the trade show, Israeli companies have all sunk millions of dollars into planning their exhibits, money that will not be returned. And the worst might be yet to come. Paris is hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics. Will Israel be disinvited there as well?

France’s actions weigh heavily on the country’s desire to serve as facilitators of a deal between the Lebanese Hezbollah and Israel. France has historical ties with Lebanon. It has 20,000 citizens in the country, and some 800 troops as part of a U.N. peacekeeping force. A French official was quoted as saying, “We made proposals. We are in contact with the Americans and it's important that we bring together all initiatives and build peace." But if France openly excoriates Israel for fighting an existential war against a terrorist organization, they make it exceedingly difficult for Israelis to trust them as fair negotiators with another terrorist organization. 

But while France snubbed the Israelis, Germany gave them a warm welcome. Last week, the ILA Air Show took place in Berlin. The ILA Berlin Air Show combines a major trade exhibition for the aerospace and defense industries with a public airshow. Like Eurosatory, ILA is held every even year. Unlike Eurosatory, ILA welcomed the Israeli defense companies with open arms. Five companies from Israel exhibited at the exhibition, led by IAI, Elbit and RAFAEL, alongside communication systems manufacturer from Netanya Orbit and drone control system manufacturer Flyvercity from Haifa. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who visited the exhibition, lingered at the IAI Pavilion, where he was hosted by Chairman Amir Peretz, alongside the heads of the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) Directorates Moshe Patel and the UAV Division in the Ministry of Defense, who was instrumental in the German decision to purchase the Arrow-3 Missile Defense System last year. “We are very pleased to have hosted the Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, at our booth at the ILA Berlin Air Show,” IAI said on its Facebook page, under a photo of Scholz shaking hands with Chairman Peretz. The post said that Peretz “noted that the cooperation with Germany is both courageous and important, security-wise and politically.”

Israeli companies were overtly nonchalant about the French rebuff. IAI Executive Vice President Yehuda Lahav was convinced that non-participation at Eurosatory will not have an impact on IAI’s business. “It was a surprise, it was unpleasant, I don’t like it, but as a company that has such a big scale of choice with other Israeli industries… We have 30 exhibitions around the world every year, so one exhibition that we won’t participate in won’t do anything to effect the business.” A RAFAEL spokesman said it is “not participating at Eurosatory due to the official decision made and we will observe this decision.”

That said, there is always a back door. While Israeli companies were banned from participation at Eurosatory, Joint Ventures and non-Israeli daughter companies were not. Elbit Sweden, Elbit's subsidiary in Scandinavia, as well as RAFAEL’s German unit Dynamite Noble Defense (DND) are still expected to appear at the exhibition. Another company appearing at Paris will be German company EuroSpike in which RAFAEL has a 20% stake in partnership with Rheinmetall (40%) and Diehl (40%), which will be displaying RAFAEL’s SPIKE family of precision tactical missiles. 

Since the October 7 massacre and ensuing Swords of Iron War in Gaza, a number of countries have ceased selling arms to Israel. These include England, Spain, Canada and Columbia, and for a brief moment, the United States. A cursory look at Wikipedia shows that each and every one of these countries have purchased weapons from ISRAEL. One must be very suspicious when the tail wags the dog.  

Good Things,

Ari Sacher

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