Israel’s Military-Technology Complex Is One of a Kind – DNyuz

Israel’s Military-Technology Complex Is One of a Kind

Last month, Israel used its Arrow 3 long-range air defense system for the first time. When the Yemen-based Houthis fired rockets toward southern Israel in the name of religious camaraderie with Hamas and Iran, Israelis were prepared, having started to develop their state-of-the-art defense system back in the 1980s. Meanwhile, Iron Dome, which was also developed by an Israeli company, has been protecting Israelis from short-range rockets fired with increased frequency from Lebanon and Gaza. Reports say Israel has also accelerated the development of Iron Beam, another revolutionary air defense system that would use laser technology to bring down incoming drones and rockets.

Last month, Israel used its Arrow 3 long-range air defense system for the first time. When the Yemen-based Houthis fired rockets toward southern Israel in the name of religious camaraderie with Hamas and Iran, Israelis were prepared, having started to develop their state-of-the-art defense system back in the 1980s. Meanwhile, Iron Dome, which was also developed by an Israeli company, has been protecting Israelis from short-range rockets fired with increased frequency from Lebanon and Gaza. Reports say Israel has also accelerated the development of Iron Beam, another revolutionary air defense system that would use laser technology to bring down incoming drones and rockets.

It is not a secret that the United States provides Israel with billions in military aid each year. The war against Hamas showed that Israel’s army could be built on the unprecedented collaboration between the military and technology companies. The tech industry in Israel has taken on the responsibility of keeping Israelis and the nation safe.

Technology and national security have been tightly bound in Israel since its founding in 1948. “We lost 10 percent of our population” in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War against the joint forces of Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, said Isaac Ben-Israel, a former head of weapons development at the Israeli Defense Ministry. That led the country’s founding fathers to conclude that Israel didn’t have the numbers to beat an Arab army or a united force from Islamic nations and needed a qualitative advantage. “That meant investing in human capital, in science and technology, primarily for our defense.”

From the very beginning, he said, steps were taken to teach science and technology and have a sufficient number of people with a scientific bent of mind, primarily to defend the country. For instance, under a program called Academic Reserve, the compulsory military service of 1 percent of the total number of high school students was delayed. They were first encouraged to pursue academic degrees. Ben-Israel, who was chosen for his academic interest–a decision that paid off as he became the chairman of Israel Space Agency–was among the first to be encouraged.

“Twelve years ago, the prime minister asked me for solutions to cybersecurity,” Ben-Israel told Foreign Policy from Tel Aviv. I proposed and the government made it a regulation to teach cybersecurity in schools. Now, high school students in Israel learn about cybersecurity.”‘

Ben-Israel shared how his country, despite its size, has the second-highest number of tech start-ups. “The U.S. has 40 percent of the world’s start-up companies … while Israel is home to 20 percent of the world’s start-ups,” many of which are deeply linked to the needs of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In cyber-startups, Israel is No. 1,” he said, adding that Israel was home to 35 percent of the world’s tech unicorns, or companies worth more than a billion dollars.

The Israeli tech ecosystem is the second-largest behind Silicon Valley and accounts for 14 percent of total jobs and a fifth of the country’s GDP. Ben-Israel said 96 percent of start-ups fail–yet each one with any merit gets up to $300,000 as seed money from the government. “It’s not a loan,” he said, “which means if you fail, you don’t have to give it back to the government.”

Fewer bureaucratic hurdles; a common cause (i.e., security of the country over profit); a more hands-on approach by the IDF to test the technology; and perhaps above all a common culture, since techies today have been in the armed forces and done mandatory military service, are behind Israel’s success in the field.

” Each year, thousands of Israeli soldiers are demobbed and leave the military with skills they can transfer into the high-tech world. This creates an extremely skilled, motivated, and highly trained workforce,” Jon Medved told Foreign policy by email.

“There’s a sort of ping-pong between a tech company and the IDF,” said Itamar Yaar, a former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council. “Long before there’s a marketable product, the tech companies offer it to the IDF, the police, or the intelligence agencies, and they try it out, sometimes in ongoing operations, to test and to improve it. If it is good, then it is procured fairly quickly.”

A confluence of interests paves the way for a unique collaboration that saves both time and money. It saves the tech companies from going through what is labeled in California as the “valley of death“–or the long wait between the development of a product and its procurement.

In the United States, for instance, profit is the main motive, and there is deep mistrust of how law enforcement agencies might use the technology–a very different ethos than exists in Israel. Employees of leading companies have protested that government departments may use their labor and skills to target immigrants. A cumbersome bureaucracy and strict regulations also hinder collaboration.

In Israel, “informal connections” between the industry and the Defense Ministry “are much closer,” compared with anywhere else in the world. Yaar said that the circle was smaller and moved faster.

In a 2015 research paper, sociologists Ori Swed and John Sibley Butler highlighted the role of the military as a socialization institution. Since most tech companies are led by senior IDF or intelligence officers and are staffed with men and women who were soldiers themselves, “the conversation back and forth is very organic,” Swed, now at Texas Tech University, told Foreign Policy.

The US ecosystem is very different and the primary motive is profit, Swed said. In Israel, however, there are many common interests when it comes to the technology being developed for the support of soldiers – whether they be children or relatives or friends of those who own the company.

Shmuel Bar, a former Israel intelligence official, runs IntuView, one such company. Bar’s company has moved to Gaza and is using artificial intelligence (AI) to sift through vast amounts of text online and documents seized by the IDF during physical searches to understand the messages between Hamas agents and about their activities. This is an interpretation service, not a translator. It reveals the hidden meanings of text that are often hidden within cultural metaphors or religious phrases. It is looking for clues on where Hamas could have hidden hostages or the whereabouts of Hamas’s leadership, among other crucial intelligence, and providing whatever it learns in real time–although the accuracy rate is currently at 70 percent.

“It’ll be several months before the R&D is completed. Bar stated that hundreds of soldiers could have been killed if the IDF had not received the information it required. “We are minimizing the losses even though the system isn’t yet perfect.”

A team of Israeli tech workers got together soon after the Oct. 7 attacks and used facial recognition software to search for the missing and for where and when the hostages were last seen.

Israel has also been at the forefront of AI used in war–although the technology has also been blamed by some for contributing to the rising death toll in the Gaza Strip. In 2021, Israel used Hasbora (“The Gospel”), an AI program to identify targets, in Gaza for the first time. There is an increasing sense in Israel that it is using AI to justify the deaths of many noncombatants, while pursuing even the lowest-ranking Hamas members. There are concerns that the IDF is hiding behind the technology to deliberately avenge those who were killed on Oct. 7 or has been genuinely blinded by the technology to its devastating effects on civilians.

Meanwhile, whatever its achievements, Israel is now relying on its tech sector for a more prosaic military advantages. The people building defense tech in peace time have doubled up as soldiers in war and comprise a large chunk of the 300,000 reservists mobilized for the current conflict.

The post Israel’s Military-Technology Complex Is One of a Kind appeared first on Foreign Policy.

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