Halutz: Technology trumps terror

Military technology developed over the last five years has played a key role in the successes against Palestinian terrorism, said IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz Tuesday afternoon. "Terrorism today is at 10 percent of the level it was in 2002 - 10% in terms of the number of suicide bombers, the number of their successes, and the number of victims," Halutz said. The reason: Technological improvements in the gathering and processing of real-time intelligence have made the IDF a more effective fighting force despite a 25% cut in materiel. Halutz spoke at a conference on military research and development held at Tel Aviv University, where he listed terrorism as the number one priority of the IDF in the coming years. "Fighting on the open desert is relatively simple," he said. "But we are dealing with crowded, inhabited areas, which, because we a country with values and morality, leaves us with many restrictions." Throwing down a challenge to military industry professionals in the audience, Halutz said that IDF needs the ability not just to identify but also hit an enemy in a matter of seconds without hurting innocent bystanders. Following terrorism in the order of IDF concerns is the development of enemy rockets and missiles, from the primitive Kassam to the long-range Shihab-3. Halutz said that, in dealing with these threats, the military would have to strengthen its defensive capabilities. "Israel will still have an offensive military doctrine, but we need to improve our defense," he said. "The legitimacy of offensive action - and we are part of an international community of norms - is on the decline." Halutz said the last threat that the IDF may have to contend with was that of an outright clash with an enemy army. Accordingly, Israel must maintain its edge in intelligence and air power. "The chances of [a conventional war] occurring are low, in fact very low," said Halutz. "But if we are not ready for it, it will happen. That's the paradox." Perhaps preaching to the choir, Halutz told the audience that a domestic military industry was critical to the national interest, alluding to past rows with the United States over the reselling of American technology to other countries. "We need our independence," said Halutz. He said that the country leads, and must expand its lead, in developing remotely piloted vehicles, electronic warfare and night-vision technology. "We stopped developing jet fighters in this country. I thought it was a mistake to abandon the Lavi [jet fighter]," he said. Halutz noted that there was pressure to stop producing the Merkava. He criticized proponents of the cut as confusing the necessity of the tank itself with the country's need to retain the ability to produce armored vehicles. After his talk, Halutz deflected questions regarding Iran. One audience member asked if the US or NATO could destroy Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program. "Yes, operationally speaking," he said without elaboration. As to whether Israel could detect, and presumably shoot down, an incoming Iranian missile, he responded, "That will be answered at the next conference."