By Andy Blumenthal
A common strategic issue in defense is that we tend to focus on the known rather than the unknown. In 1995, the prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated, but not by any of our traditional terrorist enemies that we'd expect, but rather by a Jewish ultranationalist, Yigal Amir, who was opposed to the Oslo Accords and the associated dangerous territorial concessions to the Palestinians.
Prime Minister Rabin, like the other Israeli leadership, had some of the best protection in the world with trained security personnel and technology designed to meet the significant challenges that a country under constant threat, like the State of Israel, must face.
Yet, it was the element of surprise that defeated all the protections that Israel employed to safeguard Rabin. Who would've expected an Orthodox Jew to kill the prime minister of the Jewish State? Indeed, this is how Amir got within the protective cordon of Rabin and was able to fire at point blank range and hit Rabin twice with a semi-automatic pistol. Rabin succumbed to his wounds and died at Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv about 40 minutes later.
An attack from a surprise assailant, like Amir, or a surprise attack on the State like in 1973 on the high holiday of Yom Kippur, from Egypt and Syria, is a dangerous threat that throws the defender off balance and gives a huge advantage to the attacker. This was evident with both the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, as well as in the existential threat this posed to Israel in the Yom Kippur War.
As a relatively small country surrounded by traditionally hostile Arab neighbors and numerous terrorist organizations (Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, ISIS, and more), Israel cannot afford to be taken by surprise, ever! In this regard, strategic depth of landmass of the West Bank and Golan Heights, and early warning stations, such as those in the overlooking Judaean Mountains, are critical for the alertness and survival of Israel. Hence it is so important for Israel to ultimately annex the Jordan Valley and the rest of Area C of the West Bank, and hopefully this will happen soon after the announcement of President Trump's peace plan next week.
In terms of protecting leadership, we can also not afford to be surprised again. But in this regard, the threat of Jew vs. Arab is no longer the issue. Rather, how the attack may be conducted is. We are now living in the age of the drone, and Israel is actually on the cutting edge in this technology, developing it for internal self-defense, but also selling it to other friendly nations around the world. Drones are a huge asset in terms of persistent surveillance as well as strategic, precision attacks without risking Israeli pilots. However, with the proliferation of sophisticated and inexpensive drones, the threat is greatly increasing in terms of stealth and lethality.
The element of surprise can overcome most defenses. This can happen whether through an insider threat or through new and stealthy technologies. Already in August 2018, two explosive-laden drones were used to attack the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. Similarly, last year, in the movie, Angel Has Fallen, we saw the president of the United States attacked by a swarm of drones. While this is a great threat in and of itself, I believe that the greater threat lies in the miniaturization of the drones, in some cases, drones with the size, shape, and function of insects.
Insect drones can potentially carry explosives or even poison to conduct their horrible attacks. For example, in March 2018, we saw the alleged assassination by Russia of a former Russian military officer and double agent and his daughter in the UK by poison. While this was not a drone administered attack, certainly it could have been, since insect-size drones can get close and undetected to even highly protected targets and potentially cause a lethal explosion or injection of a poison.
We cannot let this happen. Our leaders represent all of us. They are the best of us and are representatives of our democracies and the values of freedom and human rights that these represent. We must develop and deploy adequate countermeasures to disrupt and destroy these weaponized drones and we must provide the proper immersive, protective shielding to our leaders so that they are not vulnerable to these attacks.
Unfortunately, Yigal Amir used the element of surprise to assassinate the prime minister of Israel. Now there are other high-tech threats like miniaturized, weaponized drones. There is no excuse for us not to be on the lookout for and to be prepared to defend against these, so that our leadership and our democracies are duly protected. Surprise is a big advantage in warfare, but we must be one step ahead, so that we are prepared to defend against these as well as to turn the tables and effectively employ the continued element of surprise against our relentless adversaries.
Andy Blumenthal is business and technology leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own