- - Friday, August 1, 2014


As an embattled Israel struggles to protect itself against Hamas rocket attacks and terrorist tunnels from the Gaza Strip, political ties between Washington and Jerusalem have reached an all-time low. President Obama has put Israel under unrelenting pressure to accept a nuclear Iran, to make dangerous concessions to Palestinian negotiators, and now to stop Operation Protective Edge before it can cripple the Hamas terrorist threat.

Moreover, many among America’s media, university and even religious elites increasingly condemn Israel’s effort to protect its growing population, calling for sanctions, boycotts and divestitures against U.S. firms doing business with Israel. This “BDS movement” does not merely criticize specific Israeli policies, such as Protective Edge, but instead attacks the very legitimacy of Israel itself. It often masks an ill-concealed anti-Semitism, a stain we had hoped was long ago erased from American political discourse. It is reminiscent of former President Jimmy Carter’s view of Israel as an “apartheid state.”

Fortunately, however, while the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship sputters and even deteriorates further at the national level, our states, local institutions and businesses are actually forging ever-closer relations with key Israeli institutions. These rapidly expanding linkages, despite political disagreements between capitals, are mutually beneficial and represent strong testaments to the common sense of both the American and Israeli people.

The state of Georgia, which annually buys millions in Israeli bonds, is a prime example. On issues from antiterrorism and cybersecurity to trade and investment policy, Georgia is engaged in cooperation with Israel that would have been unimaginable decades ago.

Take cybersecurity. For much of the past decade, hostile states, hackers and opportunists have launched cyber-attacks against American military information-technology networks, private corporations, public infrastructure and even individual citizens. In the national security world, the integrity of the “C4” function (command, control, communications and computers) is critical to the success of our combat operations. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Pentagon describes cyberterrorism as a “top threat,” and recently warned it has “serious concerns” regarding the vulnerability of critical military programs and national infrastructure to attack.

Military needs, technology, academic research and sophisticated workforces intersect in both Georgia and Israel. Georgia Tech’s Information Security Center and cybersecurity training at Fort Gordon (the longtime headquarters of the Army Signal Corps), working closely with Israel’s new Advanced Technology Park on the campus of Ben Gurion University, are quickly becoming cybersecurity world leaders.

On a recent trade mission to Israel, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Given Israel and Georgia’s economic ties, existing technology hubs and military installations, a partnership between Georgia Tech and leading Israeli universities to combat this threat is a natural next step. Together, the “next Silicon Valley” and the “Silicon Valley of the Southeast” are joining to develop and strengthen our cyberdefenses.

Israel’s Ben Gurion University has made major contributions to technologies in powerful, innovative ways through its new relationships with tech companies and the Israel Defense Forces. Israel, dubbed “the Start-up Nation” because it has the highest density of startups per capita in the world, has thereby facilitated increased research and development for protecting information technology and communications networks. The combination of Israel’s focus on defense and its technological prowess have turned cyberdefense capabilities into one of its most important exports. In just the past three years, Israel’s cybersecurity field has grown from a few dozen to more than 220 companies.

Georgia is similarly becoming a world leader in developing defenses against cyber-attacks, espionage and industrial larceny. According to U.S. Army Cyber Command leadership, Georgia’s state government, academia and the U.S. military in-state are cooperating to improve our cybercapabilities and maximize the potential for “emerging, game-changing land-power technology.”

Georgia Tech is vitally connected to this critical industry and hosts many national and global cybersecurity conferences and seminars that serve as examples of world-class cyberspace monitoring and defense activity. With the U.S Army Cyber Command now located at Fort Gordon, it is well placed to take advantage of Georgia Tech’s expanding efforts. Fort Gordon and Georgia Tech leaders met in January to increase collaboration, including training and ongoing professional development of Fort Gordon officers and enlisted service members.

These examples of mutual cooperation in a critically important field would seem unremarkable were it not for the ongoing bilateral tensions between the United States and Israel. However, despite their prominence, Israel’s political and academic critics in America are outliers. Americans today, more strongly than ever, support Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against external threats, whether from Hamas terrorism or Iran’s ill-concealed desire to gain nuclear weapons and threaten Israel with a nuclear holocaust. Georgia’s experience is fully reflective of America’s true values and a sure guide to better relations ahead.

John R. Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Nathan Deal is the Republican governor of Georgia.

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