Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Croatia's decision to buy 12 used and upgraded Israeli F-16 fighter aircraft in a deal worth $500 million dollars, and described this project as a step towards strengthening ties between Israel and Croatia.
Reporting about Zagreb's decision to purchase Israeli aircraft, the Haaretz daily reported on Friday that the "the deal was agreed at a meeting between Prime Minister (of Israel) Benjamin Netanyahu and the Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenkovic, at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January."
"The deal, which includes the training of pilots in Israel, aircraft armament, a training simulator and the construction and equipping of facilities at Croatia's military airports", will be implemented by the Israeli Ministry of Defence in cooperation with the Israeli Air Force along with Elbit (Systems) and Israel Aerospace Industries, according to the Israeli newspaper.
Netanyahu was quoted as saying that "the deal shows the strength of the Israeli defence industry, and strengthens the existing ties between Israel and Croatia," notably in the fields of security, defence, and economy.
"The Israeli defence industry proves, once again, that it is the best in the world," he said, adding that "this deal will strengthen Israel's air force and Israel's security at large."
Croatia's Defence Minister Damir Krstičević was quoted as saying, after Zagreb had opted for the Israeli bid, that "this is a historic day for the Croatian Air Force and an investment into the security of the Republic of Croatia."
According to the American weekly The Jewish Press, Croatia had issued a tender last year to acquire military jets in order to replace its outdated Soviet-made MiG-21s, and five countries – Sweden, Israel, the United States, Greece and South Korea – submitted bids.
"Croatia chose Israel over second-place finisher Sweden, which offered a squadron of new Gripen fighters," they reported.
Haaretz noted that Croatia, a NATO member, "faces a mini arms race with Russian ally Serbia, which recently received six used Russian MiG-29 fighter jets."