Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Israeli Army: One hand on the trigger and the other on the stock market | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Asharq Al-Awsat

London-For many, the sole mission of the Israeli Army, also known at the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), is to occupy land, oppress Palestinians, and threaten neighboring countries with its weapons. They might not be aware of the Israeli Army’s importance, rarely mentioned in the media, in training businessmen who go on to occupy important positions in various companies, especially in the technology sector.

To explain this phenomenon, we need to examine the structure of the Army itself. Unlike the more familiar hierarchical framework of traditional armies, the Israeli Army trains its soldiers to think fast, take initiative, and accommodate to unraveling situations, instead of waiting for higher command.

In other words, the Israeli Army is extensively decentralized and disciplined. Even junior officers enjoy decision making powers and have the authority, in certain circumstances, to act independently of their leadership. In this regard, Peter Wildensky, an expert in technology at TNB Corporation in Newcastle, reveals that what differentiates the Israeli Army is that it is organized “more like a game of football where every player has a distinctive skill and is able to adjust his play according to the requirements of each game.” However strong the opposition teams are, players in the Israeli Army are able to collectively win the game, by executing a previously agreed plan.

As a result, most of the retiring officers then go on to own or work in companies in the technology and security sectors, both highly competitive. Due to the distinguished relations between Israel and the United States of American Israeli technology companies have a strong presence in US markets. For example, Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ index have the highest rate of businesses per country with 70 corporations out of a total of 340 being from Israel. Wildensy also adds that the ability to penetrate US markets is a further advantage for Israeli companies. They are thus bale to work with major US companies without any difficulties, whereas Arab businesses, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, are regarded with suspicion and have been the object of legal battles.

According to the latest figures, published in the New York Times newspaper, Israeli companies have made a total of 5.2 billion $US in the last five years, by trading shares on the NASDAQ index. Israel also has the world’s highest rate of capital devoted to the technology sector. Data provided by the OUF Bank (WHAT BANK IS THIS?) shows that 16 million $US were assigned for Israeli technology businesses.

This success can be attributed to the Israeli fear of failure, as evident in the first rule of the Army, which states that a given mission has to be completed under all conditions and whatever the resources. New Israeli corporations sometimes follow this military tenet and display attacking policies and an extremely competitive attitude against more established businesses. By doing so, they are repeating the strategy of the Army; to magnify one’s strong points and attack the weaker points of the enemy.

Expertise in technology, gained while serving in the Israeli Army, also contributes to promoting the sector. In addition to training its members in various state of the art technologies, the Army places no restrictions on the commercial use of this expertise. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship between the Israeli business who obtain the know-how necessary to their success, and the Army benefits from the latest technologies developed outside military barracks.

In this manner, compulsory military service is no waste of time. Many Israeli soldiers are qualified university graduates and experienced professionals. Even if still relatively young, these skilled individuals are quickly promoted to the highest ranks and given leading positions on the battlefield and in technology units. In effect, the Army doubles as a factory to produce the country’s technology savvy elite.

The Israeli Army is therefore different to other military organizations because it is highly technologically advanced, especially in the fields of wireless communication, networking, security and positioning. These sectors exist with the input of army officers who, in turn, can have access to them for commercial purposes once they retire.