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Israel and others have focused significant energy on nuclear, chemical weapons and cyber doomsday threats – but are we ready for an electronic magnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could cripple critical infrastructure and threaten national security?

A range of experts addressed the issue in regard to Israel at a conference on Wednesday night co-sponsored by the Electric Infrastructure Security Council and IDC’s Lauder School for Diplomacy and Strategy.

 Former chief scientist of the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry Shlomo Vlad said that the EMP attack is a real threat about which Israel must be concerned.

He said that in some ways it presented a threat that was more likely to occur than a traditional nuclear bomb striking the land-territory of a country.

Vlad said that unlike a nuclear attack targeting land, for an EMP attack “the means for delivery are relatively simple.” Further, he explained that unlike a nuclear strike on land targeted at killing people (an EMP attack indirectly can lead to massive deaths but the attack itself does not necessarily kill anyone), “EMP is not considered a weapon of mass destruction under international law.”

Further, the former chief scientist added that an EMP attack “does not leave behind signs which permit criminal identification of the perpetrator.”

In addition, an EMP strike would leave Israel highly vulnerable to a conventional second-strike by any of its neighboring adversaries as it could cancel out the IDF’s superior electronic-based firepower and capabilities.

Top National Emergency Authority Official Kobi Vimisberg said that the importance of electricity to a hi-tech country like Israel make an EMP attack more attractive to Israel’s adversaries.

Vimisberg said that even if the likelihood of an EMP attack is low, that a “country that does not prepare will pay” a heavy price.

EIS Council Israel Operations Vice President Dr. Ehud Ganani presented a mock video of what life in Israel might look like weeks after an EMP attack.

The video showed Israelis trying to stream out of the country on boats with Ben Gurion Airport nonfunctional, doctors describing an inability to save patients because it was difficult for their staff and medicines to get to the hospital to help patients and medical problems arising from a massive water shortage.

Reflecting estimates by real officials, workers for the electric company in the video estimated it took a year or longer to restore electricity on a widespread basis.

Top Israel Electric Company official Naomi Etzion stated that the company is investigating several layers of preparation for a potential EMP attack. First, she said it is crucial that all roles be clear beforehand since after an EMP strike communication may be impossible in terms of delegating duties.

Second, she discussed specific physical defenses to an EMP attack. There were three possible defenses, including: small add-on defenses, building new more defensible structure for key infrastructure and building entirely new facilities on a national scale which are more defensible.

IDC Lauder School Dean Boaz Ganor added that the primary EMP threat was from rogue states, jihadist groups that had discussed using an EMP weapon in June 2015 and March 2016 and were familiar with the 2013 article about how North Korea could use it on the US, and that 100,000 Youtube videos were posted on the issue.

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