Israel losing edge in technology ‘war’ with Iran, IDF intel head warns

Israel losing edge in technology ‘war’ with Iran, IDF intel head warns

Herzl Halevi says Islamic Republic churning out several times more scientists, mathematicians and engineers, warns against watching footage of stabbings

Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi, during his time as commander of the IDF's Galilee division. (Mitch Ginsburg/The Times of Israel)
Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi, during his time as commander of the IDF's Galilee division. (Mitch Ginsburg/The Times of Israel)

The country’s top army intelligence officer has reportedly said Israel and Iran are engaged in a technological “war,” with the Jewish state slowly losing its qualitative edge over the Islamic Republic.

According to a report in Haaretz, Military Intelligence Head Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi also warned Thursday against watching video clips online of recent stabbings, saying that if the clips had been around in 1948, Israel may have lost the War of Independence.

Speaking during a private lecture at a Tel Aviv conference, Halevi said Iran’s higher education system was leapfrogging Israel’s, churning out more new scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

Right now, Israel has the upper hand, he said. But “Iran is closing in on it,” he said. “Since the 1979 revolution, the number of universities and university students in Iran has increased twentyfold, compared with three and a half times for Israel.”

Halevi, who has historically been media shy, termed the race between Israel and Iran to stay ahead technologically a “war.”

“If you ask me whether we’ll have a war with Iran over the next 10 years, I’ll give you a surprising answer: We are already at war with Iran,” Halevi said. “We’re having a technological war with Iran. Our engineers are fighting Iranian engineers, today, and it will become increasingly significant.”

Iran has in recent years unveiled a number of homemade armaments, including new missiles that can reach Israel and beyond with large payloads.

In October the country tested a new long-range ballistic missile, drawing condemnation from the US and elsewhere, though officials said the test did not contravene a recent deal reached with world powers over its nuclear powers.

Israeli officials have expressed concerns that money freed up as sanctions on Iran are lifted will be used to further expand Iran’s military and arms industry.

Halevi cautioned that Israel’s next war will likely exact more civilian casualties than past conflicts.

“The next war will be much worse for the home front,” Halevi said. “In the Yom Kippur War there was one home-front casualty; a FROG missile struck the pilots’ quarters of the Ramat David air base. It was the only casualty on the home front. All the rest were military.”

Israel has suffered relatively few civilian casualties in recent conflicts, even after the Yom Kippur War. Six Israeli civilians were killed in last summer’s war with Gaza, and 43 were killed in 2006’s Second Lebanon War.

However, Palestinian terror attacks during and between intifiadas have resulted in many more civilian casualties.

Herzl warned, though, against viewing grisly footage which often emerges after attacks, many times from security cameras, saying it could have a detrimental effect on Israeli psyche.

“All of us, including me and each of you, have for the past month been brainwashing ourselves when we watch those stabbing videos over and over, creating a level of anxiety that, had everyone in the War of Independence been watching the videos of Latrun, San Simon or Nitzanim, it’s not certain that we would have been able to keep going.”

He said victories in modern warfare are measured by psychological, rather than territorial, gains.

“It’s not about how many you killed and how many the other side killed, and it’s not about how far you got and where you planted your flag. It’s about the story that the war tells,” he said.

Halevi also said the Islamic State uses “the most cutting-edge technology.”

“It’s not carrier pigeons, it’s the most advanced communication systems, with the best encryption on top of that. It changes every couple of days,” he said.

Halevi warned that swiftly changing technology also significantly shortened the shelf life of intelligence information, which would hit Israelis in the wallet.

“Twenty years ago, if you had an intelligence accomplishment you were set for the next five to seven years. Today you might have worked really hard, risking people’s lives, making all sorts of moves. You got something, but with the speed at which our world operates and the speed at which technology changes,” the information more quickly becomes irrelevant, he said.

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