The Tenth National Defense Conference



The Tenth National Defense Conference held on May 21st at the Fisher Institute in Herzlia was divided into four sessions with each session having its own chairman to introduce the speakers.

 Brig. Gen (ret.) Asaf Agmon,  Head of the Fisher Institute, delivered the opening remarks.  He paid thanks to the speakers, especially to those who had come from abroad to share with the Conference their knowledge and experience. – Dr. Dalia Kaye, General Magnus, and Lt. General Meulman.


He then proceeded to speak forcefully against the past and present lack of advanced strategy that has not changed since the time of Ben Gurion - The policy of deterrent, warning and victory are still the pillars of strategy.  The report of the committee on national defense strategy about which  Dan Meridor, former minister of intelligence will speak was set up in 2006 and has yet to be put into effect. The present strategy in fact could be the slogan “no peace in the next 100 years. “

The advanced strategy must come from the government not from the army.   The leaders cannot rely on the army to provide the strategy.  This Conference can play its part in persuading the government and its leaders to face the problem which has its ramifications in every facet of our lives – hi-tech, economic, education etc.

This subject should have the auditorium overflowing both with people in the seats of power and army personnel, especially the young who will be taking the baton from our distinguished speakers into the future.


Dan Meridor, former Minister of Intelligence, was the next speaker.  His lecture, “Shaping Strategy in an Age of Uncertainty”, covered many aspects of strategy of the past, present and the future.
He defined strategy as first to assess the situation and then to determine the aim.  Assessing a situation in this age of uncertainty is complex.  We can see how, for example, in the extreme unforeseen changes that have taken place in Egypt and Syria, proof of the difficulty to assess a situation for advanced strategy,

In 2006 he headed a committee that formulated a new defense concept but was never officially put into effect.  Meridor reiterated Assaf’s remarks that it is not the role of the army to formulate strategy but it is the role of the government and its leaders.  The leaders cannot rely on the army to provide the strategy.

We live in a world of change. A world where technology advances demand thinking ahead, but a balance is needed because of the speed of change, where one man, a terrorist by a single attack can change a country’s policy – In this world we need prevention, deterrent and defense.


The American concept of “soft power” – targeting sites, people with precise bombing from the air, use of cyber warfare – these are the new strategic developments – no more Afghanistan or Iraq type warfare.   


Meridor concluded that the Government must act to build a strategy and that Israel needs to base its advanced strategy on intelligence and precise weapons in its future planning. 


Brig Gen (ret.)  Shaike Bareket introduced Professor Uzi Arad who began his career as an IAF  pilot and has filled numerous senior positions in the military and civilian sphere.


Professor Arad began his address by referring back to the conference on the same subject exactly two years ago at the height of the very strong possibility of an attack on Iran.   The discussion revolved around the possible agreement between US and Iran.  He  said we can see today that during that morning the thoughts and ideas expressed then were in advance of their time.  What does it prove?   If you think strategically, seriously, try to see what is happening, follow the changes, the ramifications, then you attain the insights.

There is no replacement for grand strategy. There is no choice.  You cannot work with technology no longer in the front line, or you are in front or “you are out”.  The same applies to all ways of thinking but even more with grand strategy and in a time of change – “what was, is no longer”,  not only long term strategy but also what is waiting round the corner.  The short term can be the biggest challenge to the grand strategist, but even so we still have to aim for the intermediate and long term strategy.  Dealing with grand strategy demands a level of mental arrogance and modesty.


Arad gave examples when there are facts that cannot be taken into strategic consideration such as when the Prime Minister receives the only copy of some report that is not made public.

He also referred to the massive report compiled some years ago by the highest level participants that was a breakthrough on significance to defense of Israel vis a vis Iran and became a mainstay for years after.


Arad then spoke of the different definitions and implications of the terms grand strategy and high strategy.  


Today the most dramatic field is that of the cyber or in spectrum or in space developing now at such a fast rate that we see the thinking on cyber in the United States changes every six months.

Grand strategy can look for the people who will understand and exploit potential of change before it happens so that perhaps they can recommend  how to maneuver, or on the other hand we can take the strategy to the top of the pyramid which will involve the political and military entities, technology and economy, internal and external.  That is the highest aim but the most difficult to achieve.

Arad turned to the question of the cyber with all its difficulties.  He asked if cyber has the characteristics for different military uses when compared to the classic alternatives that form the deterrent and defense in the non-conventional domain.


Why has the nuclear threat become the dominant?  Because there is no effective defense against intercontinental missiles and with the Salt I agreement the powers relinquished the capability to react.
The cyber does not cause the same damage as a nuclear attack and is less of a deterrent.  Countries are racing ahead to develop defense systems against cyber attacks. Arad raised the problems, implications and ramifications of the dynamic use of cyber which is still an ongoing process. 
Israel makes much use of deterrent in conventional threats although it does not work so well and is less essential because of the defense capability option.

He believes deterrent can be attained through defense.


There is no worse sin than a general who plans a future war on the previous war or the grand strategist who relies on what he did some years ago.


The change demands continuous revisions and reviews.

Israel’s grand strategy should be, although there is nothing more difficult than this, to understand all the aspects, economy, technology, external and internal, to integrate them and to try to find the balance. 


Arad concluded his lecture by describing a new forum that has been set up composed of 100 people from the highest levels of experience, achievements, and knowledge who consult together in order to arrive at the insights that are so very difficult to attain.


Brig. Gen. (ret) Shaike Bareket introduced Dr Dalia Dassa Kaye, senior political Scientist and Director of the Rand Center for Middle East Public Policy.


Dr. Dassa Kaye said that there had been no grand strategy since the cold war but we can see the beginning of a different approach, some call it retrenchment by the US while she thinks it would be more correct to call it a re-balancing or a re-calibration.  The United States can no longer be a hegemon, the savior . 

An important point she made for Israel and the Middle East is that the Obama regime is pivoting towards Asia where there are more opportunities that the United States does not see in the Middle East – only sees headaches!  The US will stay involved but the “US is damned if we do and damned if we don’t” in this area of uncertainty and even chaos for many years to come whereas in Asia there are opportunities.


She stated that the negotiations with Iran are a centerpiece of Obama’s strategy.  Will Iran roll back its nuclear program? Will it lead to a new re-assessment of the region?    The Iranian leadership is pragmatic facing extreme economic problems and the fact that Ayatollah Khomeini has given his approval is something new.   There is room for Israeli skepticism and even if the agreement is made there is no guarantee that Iran will not continue and escalate its other aggressive activities.


Dr. Dassa Kaye concluded by saying that the United States does not have a vision.  The United States has a policy or a doctrine developing in Middle East but it is not a vision.  The approach is to avoid the situation in the Middle East from deteriorating.  There are no set of goals on how we would like to see the Middle East.   We do need a strategic vision in the region.  Containment and prevention are not enough.  Dr.  Dassa Kaye believes there are real opportunities in this region.

The Chairman of the second session was Ron Tira, on the editorial advisory panel of the Infinity Journal, spoke on operational dominance and the dimensions needed for its realization. He used the quote from San Zu, the Chinese general and strategist, “win first – then go to war”. The side that has the best intelligence in real time will have the dominance and thus the victory.


Ron Tira introduced Col. (res.) Gur Laish, an IAF pilot who held various senior positions in the Air Force and is now a Director of the National Security Council.

His subject was “Changes in the Nature of War and the Derived Challenges”.  His aim was to show the changes in the types of war, the trends, solutions and the dangers.


Colonel Laish described the operational challenges derived from the changes in the enemy’s capability to wage war.  “What was effective yesterday will not be tomorrow”.  The strategy of today is not the strategy of tomorrow.  Israel cannot win outright and our wars should be short in terms of days with the knowledge that we cannot change the area.  Colonel Laish stated that “Victory = a balance between hurting the other side and hurting ourselves and the international price we have to pay”


General (ret.) Robert Magnus, US Marine Corps, Manager of Elbit America
General Magnus’s subject was “Dominance and the Dimensions of War”.

To illustrate his title, he began his lecture by referring back more than 60 years to the beginning of air warfare in Israel when Egypt was knocked out of the War by the fledgling Air Force. This military achievement created a permanent political effect.


Strategy is planning the political objectives of today and tomorrow and not of yesterday.  “The future is not what is used to be”.


He stated that planning for certainty is a big military mistake.
The nature of war is always the same “doing” of strategy by force or by threats of force.


General Magnus traced the development of war environments through history and he listed 17 dimensions – among them people, culture, and economics.


He used his slides to list the various environments of war – land, sea an air, space, and cyber

His last comment was that “strategic and mental and physical agility is essential.”  Thus, he says, fatal regret factors can be avoided.

(All the participants extended their congratulations to General Magnus on his wedding that was celebrated the night before the Conference!)


Lt. Gen.(ret) Fredrick Meulman from Holland has had a distinguished career in the Netherlands Air Force and in NATO.


In his opening remarks he emphasized that he was not representing NATO.


NATO is at present facing a new scenario with the crisis in Ukraine and its effects on changed relationships with Russia, together with the possibility of a major conflict becoming a new reality near NATO’s borders.


General Meulman’s theme was operational dominance with the emphasis on capability development.  The speaker sees a paradox in the aim to “preserve NATO’s effectiveness as the globe’s most successful military alliance” and the inability to affect the full range of capabilities in joint air and space power.


NATO is at a cross roads with problems of sovereignty, lack of cohesion among the 28 states of NATO, disproportionate reliance on the United States which is, in fact, as Dr Dassa Kaye stated, is moving towards Asia, as well as the budget needed to retain  the airpower and space capability.


Brig. Gen. (ret.) Shaike Bareket introduced Dr Avner Ben Zaken, historian of science, ULCA, Harvard, now on the staff of Ono College, Interdisciplinary Science and Social studies, author of many books and papers.


His lecture had the curious title of “A Jewish Ghetto Aspiring to Discover Space”.  He gave an overview from the early 17th century with the moon and space seen as the vision of Utopia, of an international society.  The first phases of space development were part of the cold war with the US and Russia racing into space, far from the Utopia envisioned by those earlier scientists.  With the end of the cold war exploration of space has resulted in international cooperation.


If the space is an international venture, where is Israel?  Israel is one big ghetto, isolated in its space.  What vision do we have of cooperation with our neighbors?


He finished his lecture by asking are we “a ghetto with an air force”?.


Brig. Gen (res.) Ephraim Segoli of the Fisher Institute introduced the next two speakers, Professor Ilan Golani of Tel Aviv University and Col. (res.) Alex Gan, Consultant.


Professor Golani is a zoologist who researches the behavior of animals, especially in open space.

His aim is to understand their world and to hope that his research will inspire man.


Professor Golani demonstrated with his slides the research performed with flies and mice to illustrate their kinetic behavior in open space, involving the principle of recursion - that is repeating items in a self-similar way.


He concluded by believing that this recursiveness could act as an inspiration in technology, for example, in the development of a robot vehicle. 


Col. (res.) Alex Gan spoke about “Autonomies of Fighting Systems” which was a natural continuation of Professor Golani’s lecture.

The main points he made were concerned with military robot systems and the challenge of the future battlefield.  He explained that he is a technologist whose job is to learn advanced technologies and to enable them be transferred them to future systems.


The capability of manufacturing military robots is here and accelerating. They will be on the battle field whether the lawyers of ethics are for or against.


Colonel Gan gave examples of robots that are remotely controlled as in UAVs or fully automatic robots as in the car industry.


Due to the challenges and dangers facing central control it is essential to decentralize -in his words - ‘‘Central control decentralized” which will result in automation.   Automation will increase the efficiency and effectiveness on the battle field resulting in less casualties and a lower cost.


Brig. Gen (res.) Ephraim Segoli  introduced the chairman of the panel, Yossi Akerman, former President & CEO, Elbit.

The subject was “The Air and Space Industries’ Growth Engines and their Contribution to Shaping Israel’s Grand Strategy”


began by referring to the other speakers who had discussed the complexities that leaders, both military and political, face in assessing the scenarios for the D-day.  They don’t have to be that good but must be better than their adversaries.   They have to prepare so that on the day of the confrontation they are better prepared than the enemy and thus victory will be theirs.  In the defense industry  world the same idea is true.


As stressed again and again by previous speakers change is the challenge.  In a world of uncertainty the challenge is also to determine the assessment needed in order to know what to develop.


The defense industries have to assess the threats, assess what decisions the customer will reach and to make these assessments ten years before the leaders know what they want.  In addition the many variables can affect the whole process.


We meet many variables - the threats can change, the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister can change in addition to facing competition from other international defense industries. 


How to succeed?  The defense industry has to develop systems that will be suitable for one or more scenario applications in the event there is a change during the development.  The defense industries have to provide the answers taking into account the affordability of a system and to make profit for the company.


The final session began with a panel of four speakers who gave short talks on the defense industries.  


Mr Akerman, former President & CEO of Elbit, introduced the speakers on the panel:
Nissim Hadas, IAI Executive Vice President & ELTA President;
Avi Pelder, President & CEO, IMI
Itzchak Gat, Chairman of the Board, Rafael;
Adi Dar, Executive Vice President & General Manager Elbit Systems, Intelligence & Electro-optics, Elop-Elbit;


Nissim Hadas  IAI & ELTA


The role of a defense industry is to provide answers to the needs of Israel’s security and to succeed commercially which will result in strengthening both Israel’s security and economy.

From the security aspect, in Israel there is a continuous dialog between the industry and the defense personnel in order to learn what the needs are.

From the economic aspect the defense industry export market is a very competitive one, not only commercially, but there is also the political angle that can restrict our export activities. 

In order to survive in the export market we have to be always looking ahead and being as inventive as possible.  We have to be good both technically and commercially.  If we are at the same level as our competitors we won’t survive.  In order to remain ahead, every year the Company should have 20% products that are not in its portfolio.


The bottom line is that Israel must always be developing new systems and being very innovative.


Avi Pelder, the President &  CEO, IMI


He opened his remarks by mentioning that IMI in fact existed before the State of Israel was established.


Pelder concentrated his address on IMI products - the rockets and the premium armor vests.

Ofek 10 of IAI that was launched successfully in April was powered by two main IMI motors needing the impossible 100% precision which is testimony to the level of reliability achieved by the Company.


The Company exports between 80-90% of its products with the other 10-20% to the Israel defense forces.  He added that having a substantial export market enables the IDF to receive products more cheaply.


He completed his talk with a short video showing the Lynx launcher and a demonstration of firing rockets.


Brig. Gen (ret.) Itschak Gat,  I.A.F. pilot held many senior positions, at  present Chairman Rafael

Akerman introduced him pointing out that he had the advantage of extensive operational experience combined with industrial defense experience.


Gat said that Rafael works in the same way as the previous speakers.  Rafael develops a system and then asks the defense forces if they need it.


Rafael’s agenda for development is precision, distance and selection.


Rafael’s proximity to the Technion in Haifa results in the Company having a source of the excellent manpower whose mission is to contribute to the defense of Israel.


Adi Dar   Executive Vice President & General Manager, Elbit and Elop

The second electronic company in Israel founded in 1937 under the name of Goldberg and has passed though a number of hands.


El-OP is the national electro-optical company in Israel manufacturing a vast range of products.  The Company employees some 20,000 employees round the country.  Dari emphasized the importance of setting up of plants in the periphery, in the north and in the south,, such as Sderot and Maalot.


El-OP was the first to enter into the cyber field and the Company has set up a cyber division.


Elbit exports 80% of its products and although we see profitable startups “exiting”, Elbit is
“here to stay”.


The Company invests 250,000,000 dollars of its own money in Research and Development.

The strength of Israel’s security depends on the combination of the defense industry structure, the technology and the people who work there.


The talks by the panel were followed by questions from the audience.


Assaf Agmon introduced the Commander of the Air Force, Major General Amir Eshel


Major General Amir Eshel opened his address on “The 21st Century Challenges for the IAF” by stating that he was not going to talk about the budget crisis but remain faithful to the subject of the Conference.

Israel has no formal written policy.  He briefly mentioned the efforts of Meridor in this connection.

The four pillars of Israel’s policy are warning, deterrent, victory and defense.
Air power is the central leading player in three of them - deterrent, victory and defense.
The Air Force is the central influence, more than ever today, the weight and influence of air power today is bigger than ever.

 These air power capabilities are without precedent and have the potential to change the way we fight wars and day by day missions, whether near or far.  The problem is to make decisions and those depend on the capability of the air power.  Of course, the Air Force is not alone in the arena but immediate responses come with air power.

A war has to be short, we cannot allow ourselves a war of a month, and it must be so devastating that it will take enemy years to rebuild.

We must have the capability to create the tools required to maintain the air power and someone must decide what to do with this power.  There has to be an integration of army and government.

The capability of the Air Force can be regarded as a huge hammer to be used like a chisel to tap away at the enemy but remain away from the threshold of war.
General Eshel ended his review of with praise of the men and women who maintain the air power supremacy.

Assaf Agmon introduced the Minister of Defense Lt. Gen. (ret) Moshe Ya’alon thanking him for attending the Conference.

General Ya’alon began his lecture on “Israel’s National Security Challenges” by emphasizing the right of Israel to exist as the national state of the Jewish people.

The forces against us that threaten this right include the nuclear threat of Iran and its aim to destroy Israel, the 100,000 rockets and missiles of the Hizballah or the 10,00 rockets and missiles of Hamas, together with the numerous terrorist groups .  It was Ben Gurion who stated that whereas the Arabs can lose one war after another, Israel cannot afford to lose even one war and this remains as true today as it did some 66 years ago.  Israel has to retain its military power and economic viability in order to deter and win any battle in the shortest time.

Air power and space play essential roles since the age of conventional war between armies is becoming to some extent obsolete, although, for example, a conventional ground army is still needed to reach the missile launcher or its arsenals.

General Ya’lon reinforced the other speakers in the extreme emphasis on change, the speed of change and all the ramifications resulting. Technology has to address the challenges faced by the speed of change, if not, our air and ground power would become irrelevant.
Our military superiority is achieved by the high level of intelligence which enables the advanced use of air power and space.

He reiterated what the other speakers had said, that attack is the best form of defense; trying to actively defend every strategic property or every neighborhood is both very expensive and not always successful, although the use of the iron dome has been effective and has allowed the army more maneuverability.

There are three priorities to follow because of the budget problems – intelligence, building up power, research and development for the future.

General Ya’alon concluded his address with strong words against the assaults on the IDF over the budget, underlining that the strength of the army is its personnel who deserve better treatment.  His final statement was that the assaults on the army must cease.



The concluding remarks on the Conference were made by Maj. Gen.(ret.) Herzlia Bodinger, Chairman of the Board of the Fisher Institute.

He thanked Defense Minister Ya’alon for finding the time to attend the conference, and completely agreed with his words on the attacks on the IDF and was grateful to Ya’alon for saying the words that needed to be said.


He thanked all the people who attended the Conference, those who lectured at the Conference and to all the people who produced and organized the Conference, with special thanks to Assaf who initiated an outstanding Conference.

Looking forward to seeing you at the next Conference!




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