Jun 20, 2023 - World

Taiwan and Israel "have a lot to learn from each other:" former Israeli security official

Photo illustration of Jacob Nagel with the Israel and Taiwan flags.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Israel and Taiwan face similar challenges and should learn from each other, Jacob Nagel, a former top Israeli security official and a key architect of Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, told Axios in an interview after he spent last week meeting with government officials in Taipei.

The big picture: Nagel called last year for Israel to pivot away from Beijing and for "warmer relations" with Taiwan.

  • Relations between Israel and China have cooled somewhat over the past several years as the U.S. has pressured Israel to reduce Chinese investment in the country, particularly in critical infrastructure and technology.
  • Nagel served as national security adviser from 2016 to 2017 under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after decades serving in the Israel Defense Forces and the Ministry of Defense.
  • Nagel and two other Israeli security experts visited Taiwan in an unofficial capacity at the invitation of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's office, on a trip organized by the D.C.-based nonprofit Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Nagel is a visiting fellow.

What he's saying: "Israel and Taiwan are two democracies that have many similarities and we have a lot to learn from each other," Nagel told Axios.

  • Both countries are "Davids" facing adversarial "Goliaths" in their region, Nagel said, making asymmetric warfare strategies crucial to the defense of both.
  • "I think it’s very important for the world to help a democracy like Taiwan," he added.

Details: The group discussed cybersecurity, ballistic missile defense, early warning systems, influence operations, compulsory service, and lessons from Ukraine in several days of meetings with Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and military.

  • They were "very important and knowledgeable meetings on both sides," Nagel said, emphasizing that the meetings were not official but were just "between friends."

Taiwan is extending its compulsory service from four months to one year amid growing threats from China, though many Taiwanese men complain that they learn very little during the months spent in mandatory military training.

  • Nagel said that building out a "meaningful" system of reserve duty is an important step toward strengthening the island's defense capabilities.
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