‘There are no absolute truths.’ Toran
Photo: Yehudit Mor
‘Statistically they cause the fewest losses.’ Qassam rocket
Photo: Yehudit Mor
Defense Ministry: Trade with China resumed
Yaakov Toran gives first press briefing since he assumed position in 2005; says crisis with U.S. over China arms sale resolved, argues against overspending on protective systems for Gaza border communities

The dispute between Jerusalem and Washington over Israel’s arms sale to China has been resolved, according to statements Wednesday by Defense Minister Director-General Yaakov Toran.


“The defense industries are once again exporting to China and other nations. Security exports have never been unchecked, and we continue to ask every company that wishes to sell a product or information to submit a plan prior to the sale. We will review and approve the plans according to our criteria,” Toran said.


An altercation between Israel and its closest ally erupted in December 2004, after Israel Aircraft Industries upgraded Harpy drone parts it had sold to the Chinese army. Although Israel claimed the unmanned aircraft parts were sent back to manufacturers for “maintenance and repair,” the Pentagon charged that Israel was upgrading the drones. Acceding to American demands at the time, Israel halted defense trade with China.


“I didn’t exhaustively research what exactly happened, because there are no absolute truths and it’s not practical to stir up the past. The reality right now is that we have renewed strategic dialogue and things are back to how they were,” Toran assured.


‘We can’t invest millions in protection’


In the first press briefing since he assumed the position of Defense Ministry director general in 2005, Toran said that one of his missions was to build up a body responsible for strategic planning for the IDF and security establishment. He also hoped to increase cooperation with foreign nations. In 2005, Toran said, the security wing signed deals worth a total of USD 3 billion with various countries.


Discussing the defense’s latest research and development projects, Toran said that just yesterday they ran the final test on the “Coat and Wind” system – an active protective system for armored vehicles against rocket threats. In the test, one rocket was fired directly at the vehicle and a second was fired next to it; the protective system recognized which rocket was a threat to it, aimed at it and shot it down in time.


He spoke extensively about the protection of vulnerable settlements, especially those on the Gaza border.


“We can’t invest millions in protection – that would be a strategic mistake. We need minimal protective solutions for vulnerable positions. As is, it’s quite expensive, and no solution is perfect. Even if we invest a great deal of money, the threat might always grow and the protection systems will be useless,” Toran explained.


‘We are second most profitable body in country’


A preferred spending strategy is to invest in offense and intelligence, he noted. “Clearly everyone wants to be surrounded by concrete block, but we need to remember that Qassams are more a psychological than physical threat. Statistically they cause the fewest losses, and therefore we must develop prevention systems but not invest all the money in this aspect.”


Over NIS 115 million (USD 24 million) have been transferred to the Home Front Command to protect Gaza border communities, and there are talks to transfer an additional NIS 45 million (USD 9.6 million), Toran said.


He also brought up the defense budget and budget cuts, brushing off common criticism that the defense has an excessive budget. There is a general misunderstanding in the matter, Toran said: “We are the second most profitable body in the country. We help widows, handicapped, bereaved families. In this field alone we invest USD 3.5 billion per year.”


He also noted that the defense establishment aids released soldiers and provides employment for thousands of families.


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