When President Donald Trump announced an arms deal worth billions of dollars with Saudi Arabia last week, one item stood out among the hardware: cybersecurity technology. And there was one regional ally, more adept than most at dealing with a cyber threat, that raised an outcry against the package: Israel.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said the U.S. should make sure the deal "will not, by any means, erode Israel's qualitative edge, because Saudi Arabia is still a hostile country," according to Reuters. It was a time-honored invocation of one of Israel's main defense mantras: Since it is small in size and population it needs to maintain qualitative and technological military superiority in the region.
While Israel depends on the U.S. for quite a few weapons systems, for example for its air force, cybersecurity is one field in which it has carved out a niche. In fact, the prowess of its military and security services in that field has spawned a whole new industry for the country, now worth billions of dollars in exports per year. It is second only to the United States in terms of market share.
"Today we provide something like 10 percent of the global market in cybertechnology products, [and] 20 percent in total global investment in cybertechnology is invested in Israel," said Isaac Ben Israel, a former general who founded the National Cyber Bureau in the prime minister's office and now heads the program for science technology and security at Tel Aviv University.