Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that within a year the IDF will introduce a system for intercepting missiles and drones using lasers, at first experimentally and then operationally. The system will initially be deployed in the south of Israel, and later elsewhere. Bennett was speaking at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Bennett thus confirmed the report in "Globes" a month ago that the laser interception system would be commissioned within the next few years, but gave a shorter timetable than the IDF envisages. In a recent interview with "Globes", IDF head of planning Brigadier General Eyal Harel said that trials of the system would begin shortly, but that it would be at least two years before it started to be operational.
Bennett said that the system would make it possible to surround Israel with a laser wall that would protect it against missiles, rockets, drones, and other threats, and deprive the enemy of his strongest card against us. "The equation will be reversed - they will invest a lot, and we will invest little," Bennett said. "If a missile or rocket can be intercepted with a pulse of electricity that costs a few dollars, we essentially nullify the ring of fire that Iran has established on our borders." Bennett added that Israel would share the system with neighboring countries. "This new generation of Israeli aerial defense can also serve our friends in the region, who are also exposed to severe threats from Iran and its proxies," he said.
Elaborating on the subject of Iran, Bennett said that Israel hoped that Iran's talks with the US and European countries on its nuclear program would end without agreement, "but even if there is an agreement, our view is that the Iranians will continue to be Iranians. We are seeing this already: while the people from the Iranian foreign ministry sit with the powers in Vienna, the Revolutionary Guards behave like the neighborhood bully and attack the Emirates and other places. This is the very definition of negotiating under fire. If an agreement is signed, and the flow of dollars resumes, it is likely that their aggression will only grow stronger. We in Israel are ready. We will continue to confront them in every way. No agreement will tie our hands and prevent us from acting in our defense."
Bennett described the current situation vis-à-vis Iran as a campaign to weaken it. "This campaign is being waged in all dimensions: nuclear, economic, cyber, over and covert operations, alone and in cooperation with others. The basic principle remains valid: the missile may perhaps be launched from Beirut, or from Gaza, but the address is Teheran. The weaker Teheran is, the weaker its proxies are. The hungrier the octopus's head is, the more shriveled are its tentacles," the prime minister said.
Israel's economy needs more competition and less bureaucracy
Bennett said that US was and would remain "our best friend," but immediately added, "But Washington has its own web of interests, which, it must be candidly acknowledged, don't always coincide with ours. Its interest in the region is steadily waning, its eyes are currently focused on the Ukraine-Russia border, and it is in strategic conflict with China."
On internal matters, Bennett said, "When we formed this government, just over seven months ago, the gut feeling was that it was necessary to stop the hemorrhaging and save Israel from itself. That is what guided us. Since then, we have introduced several measures to steady the ship. We passed a budget, we shook the dust off the activities of ministries after long months of paralysis and neglect." The prime minister again made clear that the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic had to be conducted without lockdowns, as paralyzing the Israeli economy was not an option.
"The State of Israel needs a very strong economy. GDP should reach a trillion dollars, high-tech shouldn't be 12% of GDP but double that. The economy needs to remain open and functioning, even in a pandemic-stricken decade like the one we are living through. Democracy must remain stable and society strong, with mutual responsibility. The standard of living has to rise and prices have to fall. A wealthy, prosperous country can devote a substantial part of its revenue to building its military capability. Not military bureaucracy, but capabilities that open up a huge gap between Israel and the rest. The stronger we are, the more we deter. That way, the likelihood that we shall have to use our strength reduces."
Bennett added that the government was in the process of laying the foundation for a further economic leap forward, with the removal of bureaucracy and encouragement of competition, and bringing the haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) population into the workforce, "something no government has had the courage to do for twenty years." The prime minister added a further sentence on the cost of living: "The Israeli economy needs more competition and less bureaucracy. The high prices in Israel are not a decree of fate."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 2, 2022.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.