Hamas relentlessly attacked Israel over the summer not only with rockets and tunnels but also virtually, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. He warned that Islamist terrorists no longer suffice with conventional warfare against the Jewish state, but are increasingly taking to cyberspace to launch their attacks.
“Our enemies in these various terrorist organizations — Hamas, Islamic Jihad — as they fail in the military terror campaigns they launch against us, continue to try to attack us in other ways, including the field of cyber-attacks. And that is an arena that is changing, both here and elsewhere, at an accelerating and dizzying pace,” the prime minister added.
“The attack by our enemies on Israel’s civilian — and, I stress, civilian — Internet structure during the recent operation, these attacks are clearly meant to disrupt the daily lives of Israelis to harm us. But those same attacks failed in exactly the same way as the terror campaign, the rockets and tunnels attacks failed.”
Speaking at the 4th Annual International Cybersecurity Conference in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu blamed Iran for these virtual attacks.
“We have witnessed now, in the recent operation, Hamas’s efforts against us,” the prime minister said. “But I want to make clear that the party behind the cyber-attacks against Israel is first and foremost Iran, including in the Hamas attacks. Iran supports all our enemies. Iran is the source of most of the attacks that are launched against Israel.”
But the Jewish state is not Tehran’s only target, Netanyahu warned. “Iran and its proxies take advantage of the security and anonymity of cyberspace to attack many other countries around the world,” he claimed, adding that Jerusalem is making many efforts to confront this threat by trying to position Israel as a hub for state-of-the-art cyber technology.
Alluding to a budget battle raging in the Knesset over military spending, Netanyahu promoted his plan to pump billions of shekels into the defense budget — and without any increase in borrowing funds.
“The billions that we invested in security saved the Israeli economy,” the PM stated, referring to the summer’s 50-day war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “We need a significant increase of several billion in the defense budget.”
“The billions that we invested in the Iron Dome enabled the Israeli economy to continue to function during the last campaign, and prevented a bolting of investment in Israel,” he said.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid has called to increase borrowing instead of raising taxes and also reportedly supports only modest increases in defense spending.
Netanyahu also justified paying the price for installing a hi-tech security fence along Israel’s border with Egypt, through which thousands of African migrants have crossed into Israel in previous years. The border fence has taken several years to construct, at an estimated cost of NIS 1.4 billion ($377 million).
“The billions that we invested in the southern fence completely stopped the infiltration into Israel and also the jihadists in Sinai, something that was a clear threat to the economy and to the society and to the country,” he added. “There was a lot of criticism on the excessive expenditure on security, but I don’t want to think what would have happened to the Israeli economy if not for that investment.”
Netanyahu also commented on a public letter issued on Friday by former and serving members of the Israel Defense Forces’ elite 8200 intelligence unit, who said they refused to take part in any action designed to “harm the Palestinian population” in the West Bank.
“I want to clarify that any kind of conscientious objection is fully reprehensible,” Netanyahu said. “The recent political use of it, while making false accusations, is wrong. The IDF, in all its units, is the most moral army in the world.”
“Actually, I specifically want to say in this forum, with my long acquaintance with members of the 8200 unit, I know the recently made groundless accusations will not harm the important work that they do for the sake of Israel’s security, and I tell them, from this place: Continue!”