Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Intel Is Swell, or not?

According to the Hatzofeh newspaper, which caters to Israel’s religious community, Yuval Diskin's , the head of Israel’s Security Agency, recently testified in the Knesset testimony regarding the strengthening of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Diskin warned that, "If the IDF does not take the initiative and deal with it soon, in a broad ground action to 'clean' the Gaza Strip of its great arsenal of war materiel, it will find it difficult to carry out the mission when compelled to at Hamas's initiative."

A report in the daily Haaretz newspaper reported that Diskin claims that perhaps as many as two hundred Hamas military men are currently being trained in Iran. But the one that could give the Intel crowd pause deals with the new Hamas missiles reportedly capable of flying out of Gaza and landing in Kyriat Gat, home of Intel’s mutli-Billion dollar Fab plant.

Intel has had a Fab (Fabrication Plant) in Israel for over twenty years. The plant in Kryiat Gat opened about a decade ago and augmented Fab 8, located in Jerusalem.. A recent government decision to grant more tax credits to Intel resulted in the massive chip maker’s expansion of the Kyriat Gat plant, but at the expense of the old Jerusalem Fab, which is to be closed down soon.

Intel has used the Israeli plants to great effect. Not only are wafers of chips manufactured in Israel, but Intel’s Israeli R&D center has succeeded in producing some of the most significant advances in chip design for the American mother company. The Pentium 4 was designed at the Haifa R&D center, as well as work on the duo chip.

Intel might now be worried about their productivity and investment in Israel, though.
Should Hamas send a missile at Kyriat Gat, it will upset the beleaguered chip manufacturers processing ability. Hamas, in one blow, could damage both Israeli and American interests.

Skittish foreign investors have shied away from Israel. One client of an Israeli hi-tech firm based near Tel Aviv refused to come to Israel to visit the corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility of an Israeli company, worried about a missile attack. And this was six-years ago. Then the company commissioned us to prepare a filmed tour of the plant to be sent to the customer. Today even that wouldn’t assuage the customer’s reticence at placing a hefty order with the Israeli company.

Israel’s economy has been robust over the last few years, and even grew during the recent War in Lebanon II. However, those missiles struck the north of the country, mostly farm land and sparsely occupied towns and cities. A missile that hits Kryiat Gat would send Intel scurrying for cover, and many other investors snuggling up beside them.

The issue isn’t only people like Warren Buffet buying Iscar for $4 Billion, the issue is people placing orders with Israeli manufacturers fearing that the orders will never be filled due to security concerns.
Perhaps Intel might be best served by doing it’s own R&D, looking into some hi-tech way to protect it’s plant from missiles. Perhaps designing and implanting their own security, since Israel has yet to come up with a system that defends against missiles.

One smack of a missile in Kyriat Gat may be the sound heard round the world.

The generals are still at it as well, casting around for blame, some well-meaning others with an agenda. Gen. (Res.) Amnon Lipkin Shakat, formally Israel’s Chief of Staff, blamed the IDF for the foibles of the last war in Lebanon.

The Winograd Commission investigating the war, said its initial findings would be made public in April. Reportedly the commission blames PM Olmert, Defense Minister Peretz, and ex-Chief of Staff Halutz for much of the problems.

PM Olmert has already said that he had a plan in place prior to the outbreak of the war. Sources inside the IDF dispute this, saying there was no plan nor were any discussion held with the PM or Minister of Defense.

Both Peretz and Olmert are getting slammed in the polls. Neither man has a double digit rating, with Peretz near the bottom of his Labor Party list for possible leaders.
Inertia seems to have set in, though. No one is rushing to call for new elections. Many of the Knesset members are comfortable with the coalition the way it is. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz recently appointed a Kadima crony to a high ranking job, and was taken to task in the press. It is unlikely the appointment won’t go through.

A few people in the streets are also complacent about the Prime Minister and the government. The economy is good, one hears, why shake things up. The problems raised by the last war will be solved. Israel will survive. Wait until the elections.

This may well be the case. But the media is still full of reports of impending disaster, of missile build-ups in Lebanon, Hamas terrorists training in Iran, Syrian weapons shipped to Hezbollah. Nor has anything positive been said about the preparations for a missile defense system to protect the Israelis against Hezbollah, Hamas, or Iranian rockets. Lastly, the bomb shelters are still in disarray.

When and if the government is tested again, one hopes there are solutions the government isn’t making public. One hopes.

Otherwise, it may be up to Intel’s Andy Grove, a Czech Holocaust Survivor himself, to come up with a missile defense program aimed at saving Intel’s investment in Israel, with the added benefit it may just also save Israel.

One hopes.