Israel will surround itself with a defensive “laser wall,” with new missile interception technology to be ready within a year, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
The IDF will begin using the laser interception system in the next year, first experimentally and later operationally, starting in the South.
“This will allow us, in the medium- to long-term, to surround Israel with a laser wall that will defend us from missiles, rockets, UAVs and other threats that will essentially take away the strongest card our enemies have against us,” Bennett said.
The Defense Ministry successfully intercepted drones with the powerful airborne laser system installed on light aircraft in June. The system downed several UAVs at a range of one kilometer with a 100% success rate. The ministry intends to build a laser with a power of 100 kilowatts that will have an effective range of 20 km.
Bennett explained that today a terrorist in Gaza can launch a rocket into Israel that costs hundreds of dollars to make, while the Iron Dome battery shooting down the rocket costs tens of thousands of dollars.
“This equation doesn’t make sense,” the prime minister stated. “It allows [the terrorists] to launch more and more Kassams and for us to shed many millions on a ‘lightning strike’ and billions during a campaign. We decided to break the equation, and it will be broken in only a few years.”
At that point, Bennett said, Israel’s enemies “will invest a lot, and we will [invest] a little. If you can intercept a missile or rocket with an electric pulse that costs a few dollars, we are weakening the ring of fire that Iran has built on our borders.”
Israel will offer the laser technology to its regional allies that are also facing threats from Iran and its proxies, the prime minister said.
Bennett repeated his comparison of Iran to an octopus, sending its tentacles – proxies – to wreak havoc throughout the Middle East, and growing stronger all the time.
“The campaign to weaken Iran has begun,” he said. “This campaign is in all dimensions: nuclear, economic, cyber, open and secret actions, alone and in cooperation with others. The weaker Iran is, the weaker its proxies are. The hungrier the octopus is, the more its tentacles shrivel.”
Bennett expressed hope that the nuclear talks between world powers and Iran “will end without an agreement, because that agreement is bad for Israel.”
“Removing sanctions and flooding the [Iranian] regime with billions of dollars means more rockets, more UAVs, more terrorist cells, more cyberattacks and propaganda operations,” he said.
The prime minister pointed out that the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies have been actively attacking the United Arab Emirates and other countries while the Vienna talks are ongoing.
“That is the definition of negotiations under fire. That’s blackmail,” he said.
Israel’s strategy to fight back against Iran will stand regardless of the results in Vienna, because “even with an agreement, we think the Iranians will continue to be the Iranians,” he added.
“If an agreement is signed and the flow of dollars is renewed, we all understand Iranian aggression will only increase in the region.”
In addition, Bennett pointed out that the sunset clauses in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the delegations in Vienna are seeking to revive, expires in a short time, at the end of 2030.
With US Ambassador Tom Nides in the audience, Bennett said that Washington’s interests and Jerusalem’s “do not always overlap.”
“Their interest in our region is lessening,” Bennett said of the Americans. “Their eyes are currently focused on the border of Russia and Ukraine, and in the long term, they are in a strategic conflict with China.”
There is “no longer one global policeman,” he said.
“There are no vacuums in the geopolitical arena,” Bennett stated. “Any place that is cleared is immediately taken. The United States’ place in the region can be filled – God forbid – by forces of terror and hate, and it could be filled by Israel.”
Israel’s allies in the region could be part of a “multidimensional alliance” against forces that seek to destabilize the Middle East, he said.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.