How Israel’s Defense Industry Can Help Save America

Kibbutz Sasa sits one mile from Israel’s Lebanese border. Founded in 1949, it is the site of the tomb of the second-century rabbi Levi ben Sisi. It hosts groves of fruit trees and a dairy farm and has 210 members. Kibbutz Sasa is also the home of the main factory of Plasan, a company that started out making hard plastic containers like garbage cans in 1985. For four years now, American soldiers have driven more safely in Iraq and Afghanistan, thanks to Kibbutz Sasa and Plasan’s CEO, Dani Ziv.

It was Ziv who, in the 1980s, urged the company to take up the manufacture of protective ballistic vests for soldiers and police. In 1989, Plasan won its first contract to make body armor for the Israel Defense Forces, and then for IDF vehicles. When war came to Afghanistan and then Iraq, orders went through the roof, especially from the United States. Plasan’s profits soared some 1,500 percent, from $23 million in 2003 to $330 million in 2007. Today they stand at over $500 million, with 90 percent of the company’s orders coming from Europe and the United States.

Plasan specializes in a very dense plastic composite product that affords ballistic protection without significantly adding to the weight of the vehicle. “Their work is exceptional,” says a senior Israeli defense industry executive about Plasan. “To convince the U.S. military that you are a reliable outfit is no mean feat. They did it all alone, without any help from a former ambassador or defense ministry director general.”

Plasan-armored mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) have been serving in Afghanistan since August 2009, and contractor Oshkosh Company has another 8,800 on order. In 2009 Plasan even opened a factory in Bennington, Vermont, to do the work for its American contract. But while the 350 or so workers there are American, the technology is decidedly Israeli....

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How Israel’s Defense Industry Can Help Save America

Kibbutz Sasa sits one mile from Israel’s Lebanese border. Founded in 1949, it is the site of the tomb of the second-century rabbi Levi ben Sisi. It hosts groves of fruit trees and a dairy farm and has 210 members. Kibbutz Sasa is also the home of the main factory of Plasan, a company that started out making hard plastic containers like garbage cans in 1985. For four years now, American soldiers have driven more safely in Iraq and Afghanistan, thanks to Kibbutz Sasa and Plasan’s CEO, Dani Ziv.

It was Ziv who, in the 1980s, urged the company to take up the manufacture of protective ballistic vests for soldiers and police. In 1989, Plasan won its first contract to make body armor for the Israel Defense Forces, and then for IDF vehicles. When war came to Afghanistan and then Iraq, orders went through the roof, especially from the United States. Plasan’s profits soared some 1,500 percent, from $23 million in 2003 to $330 million in 2007. Today they stand at over $500 million, with 90 percent of the company’s orders coming from Europe and the United States.

Plasan specializes in a very dense plastic composite product that affords ballistic protection without significantly adding to the weight of the vehicle. “Their work is exceptional,” says a senior Israeli defense industry executive about Plasan. “To convince the U.S. military that you are a reliable outfit is no mean feat. They did it all alone, without any help from a former ambassador or defense ministry director general.”

Plasan-armored mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) have been serving in Afghanistan since August 2009, and contractor Oshkosh Company has another 8,800 on order. In 2009 Plasan even opened a factory in Bennington, Vermont, to do the work for its American contract. But while the 350 or so workers there are American, the technology is decidedly Israeli....

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