Classified defense projects receive Israel’s top security prize
President says winners exemplify ‘Israeli chutzpah’; defense minister hails recipients, praises normalization with Bahrain, UAE
Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.
Three classified defense project received Israel’s highest security prize on Sunday night, in a ceremony hosted by President Reuven Rivlin and the country’s top defense officials.
Rivlin praised the recipients, saying they exemplified “Israeli chutzpah,” or gumption.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz also hailed the winners, saying the prize represented the country’s appreciation for their work “in the shadows” on behalf of the country.
In his remarks, Gantz also praised the emerging normalization agreement with Bahrain, coming on the heels of a similar deal with the United Arab Emirates, both of which will be signed on Tuesday in Washington, DC.
“I praise the prime minister, who is leaving tonight for Washington. With you, members of the security services, we will leverage the normalization and the advancement of ties to various countries in the region in order to form a front against mutual threats and allow economic cooperation that will strengthen security and help the Israeli economy get out of this crisis,” he said.
“This we will do while preserving Israel’s military advantages in the region,” Gantz added, alluding to concerns over a proposed sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE.
The nature of the three projects that won the prize this year remains largely classified. The winning teams were made up of some combination of representatives from the military, Mossad spy agency, Shin Bet security service, Defense Ministry and defense contractors.
In addition, a lifetime achievement award was presented to a senior Mossad.
The award, which is named for the commander of Israel’s pre-state Hagana militia Eliyahu Golomb, is presented each year to people and projects deemed to have made a significant contribution to the country’s security.
“The winning projects are, in two words, Israeli chutzpah,” Rivlin said.
“It’s not just the high-level ability, it’s not just the out-of-the-box thinking, it’s not just the teamwork, it is principally always, always being ahead of the enemy, leaving them in our dust,” he said.
One of the winning teams was led by the Mossad; the Rafael defense contractor; the Israeli Air Force; and the Israel Defense Force’s visual intelligence, Unit 9900.
“As part of the project, the IDF gained specialized capabilities, a technological breakthrough was achieved, and outstanding vision, creativity and determination were displayed,” the Defense Ministry said.
Another winner was a project led by the Israeli Aerospace Industries, with assistance from the IAF, the Defense Ministry’s research-and-development department, Rafael, and the Elbit Systems defense contractor.
“The project was performed with the utmost courage and determination, overcoming unprecedented gaps in technological knowledge, and allowing for a leap forward in the IDF’s capabilities,” the ministry said.
The third project to receive the award this year was a joint effort by the Shin Bet and Military Intelligence.
“The project included innovative advancements in a number of areas and made a significant contribution to the security of the state,” the ministry said.
In addition, a Mossad agent who can only be identified by the first Hebrew letter of his name — “Aleph” — received a lifetime achievement award for his “years-long contribution to the security of the state and for his initiative [in developing] many technological solutions, while displaying outstanding talent, creativity, curiosity, and courage,” the ministry said.
The awards were presented to the winners in a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, attended by Rivlin, Gantz, Director-General of the Defense Minister Maj. Gen. (res.) Amir Eshel, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman, and former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror.
Last year’s winners of the Golomb security prize were the Mossad agents behind the operation to steal Iran’s nuclear archive last year, along with the IDF team that located and destroyed a number of cross-border attack tunnels dug by the Hezbollah terror group from southern Lebanon into Israel; a Shin Bet technology unit that developed an advanced algorithm to “detect hostile activities and prevent serious damage to the security of the state”; and a team from the Rafael and Elbit defense contractors, the Israeli Air Force and the Defense Ministry that developed an advanced air-to-ground missile, known in Hebrew as Barad Kal, meaning “light hail,” or more commonly as the SPICE 1000.
The Security Prize has been given yearly by the president since 1958. Though the prize is sometimes given for lifetime achievement, generally the recipients are responsible for the creation of a new piece of technology or for a specific operation.
Over the years, the prize has been awarded both to individuals, like Uzi Gal who received the first Israel Defense Prize in 1958 for creating the Uzi submachine gun, and to entire teams, like the group responsible for the development of the TROPHY anti-missile system that protects Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers, which won in 2014.