Elon Musk’s satellite constellation project, Starlink, aims to provide broadband internet connectivity in Gaza. If successful, it could improve the delivery of humanitarian aid and potentially challenge Israel’s internet blackout in the region. However, this move has faced opposition from Israel’s Minister of Communication, Shlomo Karhi, who has vowed to fight against it.
The Starlink network has already proven its capability in wartime situations, particularly in Ukraine, and has highlighted the need for the revitalization of American and allied military industrial bases. This is crucial for addressing current crises and deterring threats from great powers like China.
While Starlink could be beneficial for humanitarian purposes in Gaza, deploying the system also poses security risks. Granting the company the ability to select users and monitor their access to critical communication networks during conflicts gives them significant power that could be exploited for profit.
Musk has suggested that access to a Gaza-focused Starlink plan would be limited to internationally recognized aid organizations. However, this standard is vague and could potentially be manipulated by Hamas-linked actors on the ground. Technological measures, such as geolocation, may not be foolproof in protecting against these risks as they can be spoofed.
Beyond the tactical risks, there is a larger strategic concern. The presence of Musk and Starlink in international fora highlights the lack of leadership from the US and its allies due to their unprepared industrial bases. This not only hinders their ability to fight but also compromises their reliability as allies in defending against attacks.
The private sector and technological innovators, like Musk and Starlink, cannot be solely relied upon to address these gaps. While they have a lot to offer in modern warfare, their profit motives and organizational cultures are not conducive to national security. Global business leaders often depend on non-democratic and non-market forces that pose threats to strategic and national security.
It is crucial for the US and Israel to coordinate diplomatically and share intelligence to ensure Israeli forces have an information advantage on the battlefield. This collaboration is not only essential for Israel’s security but also for preventing broader escalations that may benefit US adversaries like Iran, Russia, and China.
Additionally, both countries should focus on restoring their industrial bases to win future wars. Collaborative initiatives, like the U.S.-Israel Operations-Technology Working Group, can leverage technological expertise to expand innovations in low-earth orbit launch capacity and information network security. A stronger US-Israel partnership can lead to a new era of productive democratic and market-based solutions to address these challenges.
In summary, Musk’s Starlink project in Gaza raises concerns about security risks and the need for stronger strategic capabilities. The US and its allies should prioritize the restoration of industrial bases and ensure the private sector supports national interests and shared values with allies.