Middle East Studies

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Eilam’s Arc

How Israel became a Military Technology Powerhouse

Uzi Eilam served as commander of MAFAT, the high- powered Israeli agency for weapons development, the director general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and the commander of other Israeli R&D agencies. Eilam's military career started as a decorated paratroop officer but he also studied engineering and took a central part in leading military R&D from the1960s to the 1990s.

Eilam’s Arc reveals the inside story on how Israel became a military technology powerhouse within a period of less than two generations. It blends the broad view of a person who led the creation of incredibly far-sighted R&D programmes with intimate portraits of the main players in a complex strategy that spans continents, corporations and armies. More than any other account, it explains how a very small country was able to make a concentrated use of its limited assets with astute leverage of international relationships while at the same time creating the backbone of Israeli civilian technology industries.


Brigadier General Uzi Eilam was born and raised in a deeply socialist kibbutz where science and learning were scorned as useless and effete. His is the journey that an entire country made from devising a better spade to creating an internationally competitive space programme. During this journey Eilam learned step by step how to manage the complex relationship with the United States, which he says was willing to supply Israel with high technology only if it knew that Israel was well on its way to developing its own version of the same technology itself.

Eilam’s Arc will be of interest not only to military historians but for all those who have an interest in innovation and innovation policy. Israeli innovation policies, both civilian and military, have a proven track record of success and Eilam explains how governments can nurture, stimulate and lead individuals, corporations and foreign partners towards a desired goal.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-462-8
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: September 2011
Page Extent / Format: 978-1-84519-462-8
Illustrated: Yes


Preface and Acknowledgments

1. Childhood
2. From Gadna to Academia
3. At the Forefront with the Paratroops
4. A Civilian Break
5. The 71st Battalion and the Six Day War
6. Weapons Development – The Technological Edge
7. The Jordan Valley
8. From the Weapons Development Department to the R&D Unit
9. The Research and Development Unit During the Yom Kippur War
10. War Lessons and the Treasure Hunt
11. The Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC)
12. The Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure – Mafat
13. On Sabbatical at the French Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS)
14. The Defense Ministry Delegation to Europe – Paris
15. The Israel Security Prize
16. Epilogue – How can a small country pursue large technology?


Israel could count very little on her meager natural resources and very much on her human resources, spawning recognizable achievements in key fields that ranged from sophisticated military technology to advanced space programs. Drawing on his compelling high-profile personal experiences in how Israel secured a foothold in the international military R&D arena, in Eilam's Arc, Uzi Eilam shares with his readers a revealing account of this unique story.
Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel

Uzi Eilam is the father of Israel’s high-tech revolution in weapons development and has played a critical below the radar role in building Israel's advanced defense capabilities. In this fascinating, intimate account of how Israel developed everything from anti-tank missiles to the Ofek satellite and the Arrow ballistic missile defense system, Uzi takes the reader inside the secretive offices of Israel's defense establishment. A must read for anybody interested in the decisions that have shaped Israel’s defense for the 21st century.
Ambassador Martin Indyk, Vice President of Brookings Institution, Washington D.C. and former member of the National Security Council and advisor to President Clinton and former U.S. Ambassador in Israel

It is unusual for a general of the Paratroop Corps to be a farmer, a scientist, a poet, a musician and a carpenter. But this is what makes Eilam’s book the key for understanding the uniqueness of the Israeli military and human success story.
Professor Emeritus Dan Vitorio Segre President of the Institute of Mediterranean Studies at the University of Lugano, Switzerland and former Professor of Political Science in the University of Haifa, Israel

This book is not only an excellent biography, but a realpolitik history about the State Israel. Uzi Eilam embodies the best mixture of military, science, politics and cultural life.
Gen. Paul Müller, Major General ret., former Deputy Commander, Swiss Armed Forces

Uzi Eilam’s life story intersects with the history of modern Israel at critical junctures and in fascinating ways. Israel has been fortunate to have produced remarkable men like him. They have helped transform the country into what it is today.
Peter Ho, Centre for Strategic Futures, Singapore

Eilam’s Arc provides a fascinating record of events, people and the emotions on the birth of MAFAT and the Yom Kippur War experience. It adds to public knowledge on the criticality of the human dimension behind defence science and technology.
Professor Lui Pao Chuen, Engineering Faculty, National University of Singapore and former Chief Defense Scientist, Singapore

This tour de force by an outstanding military, strategic and technological leader conveys the remarkable accomplishments of the Israeli innovative defense research and development, providing inspiring insights into the creation of the high-quality technological cutting edge, which is critical to the national security of Israel.
Professor Yehoshua Jortner, Tel Aviv University, former President of the Israel National Academy of Sciences, and past Chairman of the R&D Advisory Committee in Ministry of Defense, Israel

Uzi Eilam's autobiography reveals the secret recipe that made Israel Defense R&D what it is today. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand how Israel became a start-up nation.
Professor Major General (ret.) Itzhak Ben Israel, head of the Program for Defense Studies in the University of Tel Aviv, Chairman of the Israeli Space Program, and Chairman of the Civilian R&D National Council, former Director of Mafat in Ministry of Defense, Israel

For fifty years Uzi Eilam has been on the front line of the struggle for Israel as a soldier, an advisor and a shrewd manager of technological development. His autobiography reads like a thriller with a strong dose of managerial know-how. The book is inspiring and entertaining.
Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, General Secretary of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and former Director of Strategic Affairs in the Ministry of Defense, France

Develop It Yourself
Eilam Book Recounts Decades of U.S.–Israeli R&D, Acquisition Deals

by Barbara Opall-Rome
A new book by one of Israel's most prominent defense development figures reveals decades of closed-door deliberations and diplomatic manoeuvring in Israel's perennial quest for military superiority in the region.
... In “Eilam’s Arc: Advanced Technology, the Secret of Israeli Strength,” retired Brig. Gen. Uzi Eilam, recounts Israel's military build-up since the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the parallel growth of its defense industry through indigenous development and international cooperation, primarily with the United States.
... A former paratrooper, decorated military commander and mechanical engineer, Eilam spent the bulk of his career managing Israel's most sensitive strategic technology organizations, including the Israel Atomic Energy Commission and MoD’s Defense Research and Development Directorate.
... Like dozens of current and former Israeli officials charged with cultivating U.S.–Israeli strategic ties, Eilam attributes a significant part of Israeli strength to traditionally generous funding, technological and political support from Washington. Nevertheless, he illuminates longstanding irritants in the so-called special relationship, describing in detail the backroom brinkmanship often used in Israeli attempts to gain access to front-line U.S. weaponry.
... According to Eilam, the best way to work around U.S. technology transfer restrictions was to prove to colleagues in Washington that Israel could develop similar systems.
... Such was the case, he noted, during the 1973 war, when the Israeli government submitted a wish list of U.S. weaponry – codenamed Treasure –to strengthen its land, sea and air forces. By Eilam's account, the request included several systems that were still classified or in advanced development, including advanced radar, electro-optical and laser-guided air-to-ground missiles, Redeye shoulder-launched air defense missiles, encrypted communications, Lance missiles and Multiple Launch Rocket System for its artillery corps.
... The “height of Israeli chutzpa” or audacity, noted Eilam, then-director of Israeli military R&D, was Israel’s request for the nuclear-capable, long-range, surface-to-surface Pershing missiles.
... Several working level sessions, including a wartime visit to Washington by Israel's then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, yielded Pentagon approval for only a small portion of the Israeli wish list.
... “It became crystal clear to me the rules and conditions by which the Americans will provide us the advanced weaponry we desired,” Eilam wrote. “I concluded that the United States would only allow herself to release advanced systems only and unless we could argue that we were significantly on our way to developing similar capabilities.”
Reflecting a widely held, but seldom discussed, belief of the Israeli defense establishment, Eilam said once Israel was on the verge of developing a capability, the Pentagon would reverse earlier denials and even encourage Israeli purchases, often in last-ditch attempts to forestall competition on the export market. This way, he said, Washington intensified Israeli dependence on, even addiction to, U.S. procurement while limiting Israel’s ability to compete for global sales.
... “This paradigm is relevant until today,” he writes.
... Eilam cited a broad range of laser-guided weaponry formerly denied and subsequently offered to Israel once state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) had developed its own line of laser-guided bombs and missiles. According to Eilam, denials received in the aftermath of 1973 were “immediately responded to” in the run-up to Israel's 1982 war in Lebanon.
... In many cases, Pentagon approval for front-line technologies came too late to derail independent Israeli development programs. Examples alluded to in the book, which had to be cleared by Israel's military censor, included Israeli indigenous development of anti-tank missiles, electronic warfare systems, advanced radar technologies, and several long-range air-, sea- and ground-launched precision-strike systems.
... More recent examples, government and industry sources here said, include Israel’s independent development of airborne ground target tracking capabilities and cruise missiles following denials of U.S.-built JSTARS and Tomahawk systems.
... At an event in 2010 at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, where Eilam serves as a senior research associate, Isaac Ben-Israel, a retired major general who succeeded Eilam as MoD director of defense R&D, shared his colleague's view of U.S. technology transfer policies.
... “In most cases, there was no argument that we could develop a better system here than purchasing it in the United States. When we passed the stage that we proved our ability, only then would the U.S. agree to sell to us,” said Ben-Israel.
... “None of us can say for sure that this was an official U.S. policy or that somewhere in the Pentagon there was a chart linking the pace of our own R&D to U.S. approvals,” said Moshe Keret, a former chief executive of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. “But in practice, with few exceptions over many years, this was always the case.”

Foreign Financing of Mega Programs
Yet another topic rarely discussed in public was Eilam’s detailed accounts of the lengths MoD was willing to go for foreign financing of large research and development programs. India and a small, unidentified Asian nation, presumably Singapore, have been key underwriters of large Israeli development programs since the late 1980s.
Most recent examples, government and industry sources here said, include the Barak-8 ship- and air-defense system and the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, the former funded in part by India and the latter by Singapore.
... Although Eilam does not identify specific foreign-financed R&D programs, he details the process and rationale guiding such endeavors. Given the enormous costs associated with mega development programs and the extremely low production quantities required by the Israel Defense Forces, Israel was forced “to blaze new trails” through international cooperation.
... “There was no chance to raise needed funding from internal sources, and the only way was to convince our allies in Asian nations that they should decide to purchase the weapon systems before they were developed,” Eilam writes.

The former R&D chief discusses a series of heated, internal deliberations over the technological and operational details to be shared with underwriting partners. He also recounts MoD directives obliging Israeli service branches to procure the system once it had been successfully developed; a prerequisite demanded by foreign partners.
... “In certain cases we had to arrive at compromises that didn’t seem possible. But when we concluded signed agreements, we knew we were setting off on an entirely new path,” writes Eilam of newfound funding sources “we never dreamed we could achieve.”
... Eilam noted that the formula for securing partners at the beginning of the engineering phase – years prior to operational testing, let alone deployment – was replicated at every possible opportunity.

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