Security Officials Cautious on Dismissal of Arrow 3 Program Director

An Arrow 3 missile is fired in this 2013 test. Photo by IAI via Tsahi Ben-Ami / Flash 90.
An Arrow 3 missile is fired in this 2013 test. (IAI via Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash90)

While they are reticent to openly criticize those who made the decision, a number of senior Israeli defense figures on Monday urged security officials to think twice before dumping Yair Ramati as head of the Choma Authority, the group that is responsible for the Arrow 3 project. Speaking on Israel Radio Monday, Aryeh Herzog, immediate past head of the group, said that while it was possible that Ramati needed to be replaced, “a suitable replacement should be found first, because replacing him at this time will damage the Choma Authority” and by extension the further development of the Arrow 3, one of Israel’s important military defense systems.

On Sunday, the Defense Ministry announced that Ramati was being fired as head of Choma, because a security check had discovered secure documents on his personal computer. While Ramati is not accused of deliberately or even accidentally distributing secret security information, officials in the ministry said they felt they had “no choice” but to replace Ramati. A secret investigation has been conducted against Ramati for the past several months, ministry sources said. The firing decision was made by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Director General of the Defense Ministry, Dan Harel, the sources said.

Former Army Intelligence Director Amos Yadlin, speaking on Army Radio Monday, also cautiously criticized the decision. “I have worked with Ramati for years, on many of the most sensitive defense projects, and I know him well. Nobody doubts in any way his honesty and integrity. I am not aware of the contents of the investigation, or the crimes he is accused of, or whether the punishment is in line with those crimes, whatever they may be.”

The firing comes at a crucial time for the Choma Authority, which in recent weeks held successful late-stage tests for both the Arrow 3 and David’s Sling systems, which, along with Iron Dome, constitute the “three pillars” of Israel’s missile defense system.