T EL AVIV, Israel – Jacob “Koby” Toren, who recently retired as Israeli Ministry of Defense (MoD) director-general, died P Dec. 26 of a stroke at age 67.
Through three decades of key military, industrial and government positions, Toren influenced generations of Israeli military modernization. He was considered a pioneer in the 1980s for his work on Ofeq-3,
‘s first spy satellite, in the 1980s.
Throughout his career, the retired Air Force officer was instrumental in bolstering industrial competitiveness, having presided over Elop’s 1999 merger with Elbit Systems,
‘s first significant consolidation. Five years later, as chairman of Rafael Armament Development Authority, Toren presented the Israeli Treasury with its first dividend from a profitable, state-owned defense firm.
As the only Israeli executive to have held senior management slots at Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), Elbit and Rafael – the nation’s top three defense firms – Toren brought a unique and comprehensive perspective to the industry’s formidable strengths and myriad weaknesses.
“Koby was a pillar of our defense industrial base,” Micky Federman, principal owner and chairman of Elbit Systems, said at Toren’s Dec. 28 funeral. “No other man had such an extensive history or such an impact on our community.”
In an interview a week before his death, Toren said he doubted whether
‘s socialist heritage and perennially threatening national security environment would ever allow for full privatization of its industrial base. Instead of “treading in place” through protracted, decades-old discussions over a mega-merger that may never happen, Toren supported an immediate consolidation of state-owned assets held by Rafael and Israel Military Industries.
The next step, Toren said, would involve a joint venture between Rafael and privately held Elbit in the MoD-owned Merkava tank production facility. According to
would have three centers of industrial excellence over the next decade – Elbit, IAI and Rafael – with long-term options for further consolidation into two major defense firms: one state-owned and the other privately held.
“Privatization is not always the best solution,” Toren said. “If we form one big company, with everything provided in-house, it hurts our chances of cooperation with other, much larger international companies. … I prefer lean and mean to one-stop-shopping.”
Moshe Keret, the recently retired IAI chief executive, credited his colleague and friend of more than 30 years with strengthening the Israeli defense industries: “He had an extraordinary ability to implement even the most daunting and complex missions. His contributions have been enormous.”