The head of Israel’s most powerful intelligence agency depicted Wednesday a changing battlefield in which offensive cyber capabilities will, in the near future, represent the greatest shift in combat doctrine in over 1,000 years. For now, though, he said, the 170,000 rockets and missiles pointed by enemy states at Israel represented the most pressing threat, a danger he placed even above Iran’s rogue nuclear program.
“Cyber, in my humble opinion, and you don’t have to agree with me, will be revealed in a not very long time as a revolution greater than the creation of gunpowder or the usage of the aerial space at the start of the past century,” said Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate. Kochavi, a former infantry officer, called the possibilities inherent in cyber warfare “nearly limitless, and that is not a metaphor.”
He revealed that the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, already the largest of the army’s corps, has recently expanded further and shifted both its methodology and, more significantly, its approach. Where once, he said, a state’s intelligence service was expected to describe reality, today it must also “take part” and alter it.
Like his predecessor Amos Yadlin, Kochavi, speaking at the INSS think tank’s annual conference in Tel Aviv, described a Middle East in a historic flux, producing an array of challenges and opportunities.
He listed four central challenges. The first, notably listed ahead of Iran’s nuclear program, are rockets, he said. Kochavi asserted that Israel faces 170,000 rockets and missiles, and that, “for the first time in many decades, the enemy has the ability to drop considerable amounts of munitions on the cities of Israel.” In the past the threat was countered by the IAF, he said; today it is Israel’s enemies’ primary weapon and it represents an enormous intelligence challenge to counter.
Kochavi, who has reportedly voiced opinions that did not dovetail with the political leadership’s interpretation of the changes in Iran, for instance highlighting the potential significance of Hassan Rouhani’s election to the presidency, steered clear of that topic in this address. He said only that the Iranian military nuclear program continues in a manner that enables Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, should he decide to give the order, to sprint ahead “to one bomb or more.”
He revealed that the cyber threats facing Israel are growing “exponentially” and said that during the past year the state has faced hundreds of attacks and the intelligence community has faced dozens of attacks, “the vast majority of which were thankfully unsuccessful.”
And finally, he noted the “near 360 degree” presence of Jihadist elements along Israel’s borders. A slide depicting areas under the control of militant, Salafist elements covered what looked like half of Syria and had a presence in nearly every country in the region, including Turkey, he noted. Aside from creating friction along the border regions and melting the …read more