The Israel Defense Prize was awarded on Tuesday to the IDF officers responsible for the breakthrough that allows the army to discover Gaza’s terror tunnels.
The prize, the most prestigious award given by the defense establishment, highlights projects and activities that have contributed to the state’s security and to maintaining its military might and qualitative edge on the battle field—both technologically and operationally.
During the ceremony, which is held every year over the past six decades, three prizes were awarded to groundbreaking security projects.
One of the prizes was awarded to the tunnel discovery project, which was led by the Defense Ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, in cooperation with the IDF’s Ground Forces and Gaza Division, Elbit Systems, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and the Prime Minister’s Office.
“There is nothing like this apparatus in the world, it led to a turning point in the campaign to thwart the tunnel threat,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Another prize was awarded to a project that provides a first-of-its-kind answer to a central threat the State of Israel faces. The project, according to the Defense Ministry, “encompasses technological innovation and exceptional operational daring and serves as a significant and unique strategic contribution to the state’s security.”
The third prize was awarded to a project that had a major impact on Israel’s security, among other things by helping foil hundreds of terror attacks.
“This project encompasses the development of an innovative concept, which strives to achieve intelligence superiority and fulfill the potential of the digital age, as well as impressive organizational jointness and unique technological achievements in the field of big data,” the Defense Ministry said.
The defense bodies that received the prize are: the Military Intelligence Directorate (Special Operations, Unit 8200, Unit 3060, and the technological unit in the Research Department), the Central Command’s Intelligence Unit, the Matzpen Unit in the Computer Service Directorate, the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Israel Aerospace Industries’ MLM Division.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Reuven Rivlin said that “by awarding this prize, the defense establishment expresses its firm belief in the superiority of the human asset. The systems and teams who were recognized this year are living testimony of the great changes that occurred in the map of security challenges Israel faces.”
Describing these challenges, Rivlin said, “Primarily, we are dealing with the Iranian threat—both near and far—but at the same time new arenas of fighting are being created—the lone wolf terrorism, cyber warfare, the underground battle and the challenge of managing the daily ongoing friction with the civilian Palestinian population.”
“In order to give these new arenas an appropriate response, we refreshed the combat doctrine, redefined our operational objectives, updated the deployment of the forces, and above all—we developed excellent systems,” the president said proudly.
He stressed, however, that “such preparedness, as good as it may be, is not enough. To prevent the next war, we must formulate a strategy that can create a political alternative to conflict. The State of Israel’s strength has always been in its leadership’s recognition of the fact we must always be one step ahead of the enemy. The Israeli leadership must ensure at all times that we are not prone to complacency.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the recipients of the prize, saying they “dramatically changed the security reality in the State of Israel.”
“The tunnel discovery project is based on a unique technology, which is almost science fiction,” Lieberman added. “Thanks to the people sitting here, we took away Hamas’s strategic weapon—in which it invested most of its military budget, hundreds of millions of dollars. The attack tunnels have become burial tunnels.”
The defense minister went on to say that the technological system that aided in thwarting hundreds of terror attacks was “no less incredible. One can confidently say many citizens owe their lives to you.”
The Defense Ministry’s Director-General, Udi Adam, said Israel’s defense establishment is faced with unique challenges, “not just the construction of a new building, but inventing every time anew the building materials that do not yet exist.”
“These developments give the IDF its technological and operational advantage, and make the life of an entire nation safer,” Adam added.
“Thanks to you, the State of Israel is a world power in the field of defense technology,” he praised. “Despite this, you do not seek glory, and you operate all of these years knowing your names and achievements will not receive public exposure.”