Yossi Melman: I became Number 1 Public Enemy in Azerbaijan

Yossi Melman


Prominent Israeli writer and journalist Yossi Melman published an article in Maariv newspaper in August about the visit of Israeli Aeronautics Defense Systems (ADS) company delegation to Azerbaijan, aimed at signing a contract on supply of Orbiter 1K “kamikaze” drones.

Yossi Melman’s article informed that Azerbaijan asked Israeli engineers to demonstrate the operation of the drones by attacking Armenian position in Artsakh. They planned to record the operation and show the video on Azerbaijani television. According to the article, the two Israeli operators categorically refused to make the assault, meanwhile, ADS management agreed to Azerbaijan’s conditions. The company’s management blamed Israeli operators for possible cancelling of the important contract, but operators refused anyway. Then the management had to activate the equipment on their own. The article tells that one of the operators left his job after the incident and the second operator is going to do the same.

After the article, Ministry of Defense of Israel started investigation and last week it became known that ADS lost export license.

Mediamax contacted Yossi Melman and asked him a couple of questions.

– Israeli media reported that ADS lost the export license and can’t provide “kamikaze” drones to Azerbaijan any more. Do you think this development was the outcome of your article?

– It was a result of the complaint that was submitted to the Ministry of Defense of Israel, and I was just the first to report about the complaint. And I can not exclude that without my article, this case would not become known.

So, the Ministry had to investigate the case and they have reached a conclusion that the complaint that I was referring to in my article was correct.

– Do you think there could be other developments related to Israeli arms supplies to Azerbaijan?

– I don’t think so. Israel and Azerbaijan have strategic relations. Azerbaijan is an important market for Israeli arms exports. So I think this will not affect Israel’s relations with Azerbaijan.

And the Defense Ministry didn’t suspended ADS’s general export license. Suspension is related to only this particular product (Orbiter 1k). So ADS can continue selling other products to Azerbaijan.

– Azerbaijan extensively used the Israeli made drones against Armenians during the April War in 2016. How was this fact perceived by the society and elites in Israel?

– It’s not an important topic for people in Israel. Israeli defense industry enjoys support of the population, and it’s not a serious ethical and moral question for the Israeli society. Defense industry is one of the strongest in Israel and defense establishment if one of the most powerful sectors in the elites. Some journalists, intellectuals and opposition members of the parliament are raising the moral questions, but they remain at the margins of the Israeli society. And this is the case not only for Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also for other parts of the world, where Israel sells arms.

– Have you experienced any form of pressure from Azerbaijan after your article was published?

– Well, I became Number 1 public enemy in Azerbaijan. There were some terrible, nasty media reports about me in Azerbaijan.

The called me “an agent of Armenian lobby”, “weak journalist”, “corrupt journalist”, etc. I know that I have very little chances to start a legal process in Azerbaijan against those media outlets, but I will probably sue them outside Azerbaijan. I just want to teach them a lesson. And I will never ever travel to Azerbaijan – I have been there twice, last time – with the Israeli Prime Minister about 7 months ago.



Israeli Firm Loses Kamikaze-drone Export License After Complaint It Carried Out Live Demo on Armenian Army

Defense Minister freezes license for Azerbaijan amid investigation over reports that Aeronautics demonstrated use of aircraft by attacking Armenian army position

Israel’s Defense Ministry has frozen some of the licenses of Aeronautics, preventing the firm from exporting its drones to Azerbaijan, one of its major clients.

The action comes in the wake of an investigation of the Israeli firm by the Ministry of Defense Security Authority which was examining a complaint that Aeronautics representatives demonstrated the use of a kamikaze drone in Azerbaijan, by attacking a manned position of the Armenian army.

On Monday night Aeronautics informed the stock market that the Defense Ministry had frozen the marketing and export licenses of its Orbiter 1k to “an important customer of the company in a foreign country.” The company didn’t mention the name of the country, but Azerbaijan has been the company’s most important customer in recent years.

The company cannot export the drone to Azerbaijan — as per its original contract— or demonstrate its use, or form any ties with representatives of the Azeri army involving the drone. According to Aeronautics, the contract for supplying the kamikazi drone, an armed unmanned aircraft, totals $20 million for the next two years.

The Defense Ministry would not respond to Haaretz’s questions on the subject or confirm that the licenses have been frozen because of the investigation. The ministry said that the investigation of the complaint is in progress.

This is the first significant step taken by the Defense Ministry against Aeronautics Defense Systems since the reports about the use of its drone in the separatist Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a part of Azerbaijan. According to the complaint, a team from the company was asked to operate the device, which is armed with explosives, against a manned outpost of the Armenian army. Aeronautics vehemently denied the claim, and said that only the purchaser operates the device, and the company “never carries out demonstrations on live targets, as is true in this case as well.”

The Aeronautics licenses for Azerbaijan were frozen by the Defense Export Controls Agency in the Defense Ministry. This body is in charge of the implementation and monitoring of the Defense Export Control Law, which contains the rules governing the defense industries. Without a marketing license, the Israeli defense industry is not allowed to form ties with an official source in a foreign country involving Israeli weapons. Without an export license, it is forbidden to send the weapons outside Israel. The Defense Export Controls Agency is also supposed to monitor the activity of the defense companies and to ensure that they abide by the rules and regulations. Among other things, it was decided that demonstrations by Israeli companies worldwide, like that of drones, would be performed without firing or using ammunition, and would only demonstrate how they are flown.

The company announced that it believes that the license freeze is temporary, “and is being done in the wake of an investigation by the Defense Ministry relating to the company’s activity in the client’s country and the permits required for it.” They also said that the company is examining the issue with the Defense Ministry. The rest of the company’s activity was not restricted by the ministry, nor was its overall activity in Azerbaijan.

Details that have reached Haaretz in recent weeks indicate that on the day of the incident that is now being examined by the Defense Ministry, there was an attack by a suicide drone on the Armenian army. In the official journal of the Armenian army a senior army official discussed the attack, adding that two soldiers were slightly wounded in the incident. According to an Armenian source, it was the only attack recently by means of a suicide drone, but until now, there was no additional evidence connecting it to Israeli drone operators. The daily newspaper Maariv first reported on the Defense Ministry’s investigation about two weeks ago.