An Israeli soldier (L) helps roll up the Israeli and American flags after an honor guard ceremony held for Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Tel Aviv, Israel, May 9, 2017.
A festive ceremony on an Israeli Air Defense Command base drew no special attention. The Sept. 18 ceremony in the Negev desert dedicated a first of its kind in Israel’s history: a permanent American military base, to be staffed with dozens of uniformed American soldiers, within an Israeli air force base. It’s an open secret that the Americans have warehouses for ammunition and strategic equipment in Israel for emergency situations, but until now there were no real military bases. For the first time, the American military will have a physical foothold within Israeli territory.
“This is a historic day when we dedicate a base with our most important ally, the United States, here in the Negev,” said the commander of Israel’s aerial defense at the ceremony, which was attended by American generals as well. Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich went on, “This is the first time a permanent American base is situated within one of our bases, and it proves the strategic commitment of the two militaries and two air defense commands. It is an important moment in the State of Israel’s air defense against high-trajectory fire that would attack us from far and near. And it adds to the capability that is growing year by year.”
This coming February, Israel and the United States will cooperate in the “Juniper Cobra” exercise, which takes place every two years — a strategic exercise of the two countries’ joint air defense capabilities as well as radar systems and the identification and interception of ballistic and high-trajectory threats to Israel.
It all started at the end of the past decade: Sen. Mark Kirk, one of Israel’s biggest supporters in the US Congress, suggested situating in Israel the sophisticated X Band Radar, a defensive system that gives early warnings of missile strikes. To the surprise of decision-makers in Jerusalem, the US administration’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates quickly authorized the exceptional request and within two months, by September 2008, the huge radar system was built in the Negev. It includes two towers of sophisticated sensors, the tallest of their kind in the world.
The radar is operated by the United States, and the base is considered an American extraterritorial location in Israeli territory. Essentially, Israel receives the intelligence collected by the radar in real time from the Americans, and not from the facility itself. The system was tested in special exercises in Europe in the presence of Israeli staff and senior officials before it was brought to Israel.
The Israeli security establishment very gladly accepted the reinforcement. The Americans did not grant, sell or transfer the system to Israel, but only placed it in its territory. In the first years, the radar was operated by American civilians working for the US military. Now the US military has changed its policy and decided to replace those civilians with regular uniformed soldiers. To that end, the US base was established within the Israeli base.
“This is a radar system that consists of the best American technological capabilities,” a senior source in the security establishment told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “It allows us to identify threats to the state even from the longest ranges. It allows us to identify rocket salvos precisely and quickly, and it can determine exactly where the ballistic threat would hit before it’s too late.” According to various reports, the radar can identify a threat from a distance of 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) away and offer Israel a relatively long warning period (around eight minutes), enabling effective civilian defense and the use of various means of interception such as Israel’s Arrow missile.
“This cooperation works with great efficiency,” reported a senior Israeli security source in a private conversation with Al-Monitor. “The capabilities of this radar are amazing. It opens before us the whole map of the Middle East and identifies all the threats. It’s connected and synchronized with additional systems, Israeli and American, and it dramatically enhances our capacity to defend ourselves. The cooperation between the air force, its supervision system and air defense units — and the radar and its American staff — has proven to be perfect.”
The placement of the American radar in Israel is perhaps the most interesting testament to the depth of the security relationship between Israel and the United States, to the American commitment to Israel’s security and to the willingness of Washington to strategically partner with Israel.
“We must remember that the Americans could take this radar from here and bring it somewhere else tomorrow morning in a simple operational decision,” said a senior Israeli security source who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “As far as we know, they haven’t considered it. Even in the worst days of the relationship between President [Barack] Obama and Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, it was clear to all sides that when it comes to the security of Israel there are no conflicts and no rivalries.”
The radar is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It is indirectly connected to the Israeli air force’s monitoring systems. The US staff transmits any threats detected in real time to the Israeli air force, which is synchronized and connected to the various parts of the “Magic Wand” system (also nicknamed the “David’s Sling” missile defense system), which is intended to intercept ballistic missiles and high-trajectory threats to Israel. According to estimates, it would take mere seconds between the identification of the threat and the launch of the means of its interception, providing precise forecasting of the missile’s point of impact.
“Without a doubt, this is an exceptional gesture,” a senior Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “With such a radar system at our service, we can sleep a little bit better at night.”
Israel’s National Labor Court this week ruled that a Bedouin woman, divorced and living in a polygamous family (with her husband and his second wife), is entitled to National Insurance Institute income support benefits in addition to her ex-husband’s income – even though she continues to live near his home with her mother-in-law and their children, Globes reported.
Salami al-Zayadneh, a Bedouin woman, sought to receive income support benefit as she would be entitled to if she lived apart from her husband whom she had divorced. Except that she never left the family compound – which was noted by both the National Insurance Institute and the Regional Labor Court in rejecting her claim, ruling that there was no change in her way of life, and that she continued to maintain a common household with her “ex” husband.
A billboard in Toulouse commemorating the victims of Mohammed Merah’s gun attack on the Ozar Hatorah school in March 2012. Photo: File.
Chaotic scenes broke out on Wednesday at the trial in France of the brother of an Islamist extremist who carried out a spree of terrorist attacks around the southern city of Toulouse in March 2012, including a gun assault on a Jewish school that resulted in the brutal murders of a rabbi along with three young children.
Shouts and jeers erupted from the gallery at the court in Paris during the testimony of Zoulika Aziri — the mother of 35-year-old Abdelkader Merah, who could face a life sentence if he is found guilty of having aided his brother, Mohammed, in carrying out three separate terror attacks between March 11-19, 2012. Mohammed Merah was shot and killed by French police on March 22 of that year at the culmination of a 30-hour siege after he was tracked down.
The evidence is mounting that Iran is not only violating the spirit of the no-nukes deal, but that it is also violating its letter. The prologue to the deal explicitly states: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” This reaffirmation has no sunset provision: it is supposed to be forever.
Yet German officials have concluded that Iran has not given up on its goal to produce nuclear weapons that can be mounted on rockets. According to Der Tagesspiegel, a Berlin newspaper:
“Despite the nuclear agreement [reached with world powers in July 2015], Iran has not given up its illegal activities in Germany.
An outbreak of bubonic plague in Madagascar is quickly becoming an epidemic, giving a grim look into how this dreaded disease, once known as the Black Death, killed off one-third of the entire world population.
Madagascar, a poor country in the Indian Ocean, suffers annual outbreaks of the plague with an estimated 400 cases every year. This current outbreak threatens to be much worse than the usual annual outbreak. In the past two months, at least 74 people died from the disease and over 800 more have been infected.
St. Catherine’s Monastery is a popular destination for Christian religious tourism, South Sinai, Egypt. Posted July 14, 2017.
CAIRO — Pope Francis has confirmed that Egypt will be included as an official Roman Catholic Church pilgrimage destination next year, sparking hope that the country’s tourism industry can be revived. The first pilgrims should begin arriving in Egypt in May, according to Tourism Minister Yahya Rashed.
The pope endorsed the designation Oct. 4 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism then announced Oct. 5 that the path of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) in Egypt more than 2,000 years ago will be part of the Vatican pilgrimage program for 2018.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump initiated an important change in US policy toward Iran.
No, in his speech decertifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear accord it struck with his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump didn’t announce a new strategy for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, or stemming its hegemonic rise in the Middle East, or limiting its ability to sponsor terrorism.
Trump’s move was not operational. It was directional.
One month after Islamic militants bombed two Egyptian churches during Palm Sunday and killed nearly 50 people in April 2017. On Friday, May 26, several SUVs stopped two buses transporting dozens of Christians to visit and pray at the ancient Coptic Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, in the desert south of Cairo. According to initial reports, about ten Islamic militants, heavily armed and dressed in military fatigues, “demanded that the passengers recite the Muslim profession of faith”—which is tantamount to converting to Islam—and when they refused, the jihadis opened fire on them, killing 29 Christians, at least ten of which were young children (including two girls aged 2 and 4). Mohsen Morkous—an American citizen described as “a simple man” whom “everyone loved”—his two sons, and his two grandsons were among those killed.
Even now, polls suggest that about 40 percent of Americans regard Donald Trump as a suitable president. In essence, this preference has little to do with job performance and must be explained by the nature of the wider society from which this president was drawn.
For the most part, Americans have forsaken every once-residual aspect of an authentic intellectual life. This near-total abandonment of a national “life of the mind” was not fashioned in a cultural vacuum. Rather, it was fostered by an unrelenting barrage of crude and voyeuristic entertainments, most of which now center on sex, sadism, torture, murder and dreary profanity.
On Sunday, a delegation of young Israeli Arabs joined the battle against the apartheid lie and the BDS libels. Such a delegation—on behalf of Reservists on Duty, an organization which is already active on US campuses—is definitely a refreshing change, which sparks not only curious and sympathetic reactions but also threats and a smear campaign. One of the delegation members was forced to leave his home, and another member nearly quit following the pressure.
After weeks of Egyptian-sponsored pre-talks, and a very short “cabinet meeting” in Gaza, “formal reconciliation talks” are now being held between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (P.A. or Fatah) in Cairo under the direct auspices of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
For some Middle East-watchers, the talks are a form of progress. There are presently three functional governments between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and this is about getting rid of one of them. Progress here is that Israel is not the government they’re talking about getting rid of. Yet. This is about whether Hamas or Fatah will lead the Palestinians – whether to peace with Israel or to war with Israel is less important for them right now than simply who between them is top dog.