Seeking local production, Israel to buy new assault rifles

JERUSALEM — Israel plans to buy “tens of thousands” of assault rifles from local businesses as part of a “requirement to renew and strengthen the [Israel Defense Forces’] stockpile of weapons,” the Defense Ministry announced this week.

The push to ensure independent production of weapons comes as the Biden administration says the U.S. is working on a deal aimed at securing at least a six-week halt to hostilities and releasing all hostages.

A spokesman for the ministry said the call for local weapons does not represent a policy change. The ministry noted “the procurement of American weapons will also continue.”

But retired Brig. Gen. Amir Avivi, chairman and founder of the Israel Defense And Security Forum, which works to promote Israel’s weapons production, has a different view.

“The defense leadership already understands that the State of Israel cannot afford to depend on others in terms of armaments,” Avivi said. “Besides what Israel has experienced since Oct. 7, the Russia-Ukraine war also strengthens this thesis.”

He noted Ukraine, which has relied on foreign aid, has been in a challenging position.

“Israel is paying the price for neglecting its own production capacity,” Avivi explained. “Now it has a desire to bridge over the gaps.”

“It starts with a tender for assault rifles, and will continue to shells and missiles,” he added.

Two domestic companies — Israel Weapon Industries in central Israel and Emtan from the northern part — manufacture assault rifles from the AR-15 family and may compete. Neither could immediately be reached for comment.

The new procurement is intended to replace rifles worn out in the war against Hamas. The chosen would join the current inventory, which includes, among others, the M16 and Tavor rifles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.