TEL AVIV — Overruling MoD efforts to retain tight control over cyber-related technologies and services, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directed his national cyber chief to spearhead a new export licensing policy that guards critical technologies, yet opens up Israel’s cyber industry to international sales and cooperation.
In a June 9 address at Tel Aviv University, Netanyahu said Israel has become a global cyber power, ranking high among the world’s five leading nations operating in the cyber domain.
He declined to rank the top five cyber powers, but insisted that exports and cooperation would strengthen Israel’s superiority in an important part of “the current battlefield, not the future battlefield.”
“We want to export these capabilities… and build on our local strengths as a basis for cooperation,” Netanyahu told participants at the university’s Third Annual International Cyber Security Conference.
Netanyahu said he tasked Eviathar Matania, head of Israel’s recently established National Cyber Directorate (NCD), to propose within a month guidelines that would govern Israel’s new liberalized cyber export policy. In an implicit nod to MoD reluctance to relinquish control of cyber-related exports, Netanyahu said the new policy would account for “limitations related to information security and proprietary knowledge.”
“We are aware of the limitations… but we still want to increase exports of Israeli cyber services and products,” he said.
Netanyahu’s support for liberalized cyber-related export licensing caps a nearly year-long dispute between MoD, which had argued for continued restrictions, and industry-supported officials within the NCD and Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.
The dispute became public in a conference last March, when Matania criticized MoD’s draconian restrictions on cyber-related exports. At the time, he insisted Israel would be unable to sustain a leading cyber industry “if it continues to monitor these exports illogically and irrationally.”
Digital Iron Dome
In his June 9 address, Netanyahu said Israel aims to develop and deploy a “digital Iron Dome” to defend against the growing threat of cyber attack. The Israeli premier blamed Iran for an uptick over the past two months in cyber attacks against vital national networks. “These attacks are perpetrated directly by Iran and also by its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas,” he said.
While Israel succeeded in thwarting “most of these attacks,” Netanyahu warned the “quality and quantity” of attacks were bound to increase. “We aim to establish what I call a digital Iron Dome,” he said of Israel’s combat-proven active defense system for intercepting rockets and short-range missiles.
Israel must “always be one step ahead of our adversaries in this never-ending contest,” Netanyahu said.
Insisting that cyber threats are “an international problem that can only have an international solution,” Netanyahu said he discusses the imperative for international cooperation “with almost every leader who comes here.”
He added that during U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent visit here, “we spent quite some time discussing this and thinking how we can solve these problems in international frameworks and through cooperation.”