An Important letter to the Wall Street Journal by George Blumenthal regarding US-Israel Military Aid.
September 20, 2019
Letters to the Editor
The Wall Street Journal
In response to The Wall Street Journal, “Iran Rejects U.S. Accusations Over Saudi Oil-Facility Attacks” September 16, 2019
On September 14th, more than 20 low flying cruise missiles and drones perpetrated an attack on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil processing plant. The attack, which both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have substantially concluded was conducted by Iran, exemplifies the fragility of the geopolitical situation in the region. It also underscores the importance of the nearly $3.8 billion in foreign aid the U.S. sends to Israel each year. Reporting around this aid, especially in the wake of critiques from certain members of Congress, has largely ignored the fact that 75% of the funds must be spent in the United States for military equipment provided by leading defense contractors such as Boeing, Collins Aerospace, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin. It also ignores the tangible benefits the U.S. derives from its provision of aid to Israel, which since the capture of a MIG 21 in 1966 has served as something of a military laboratory for the United States.
Among the military threats the United States faces today is the proliferation of increasingly sophisticated missile systems in countries hostile to its interests. North Korea is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that have the requisite range to strike Los Angeles. Official Russian illustrations have demonstrated the plausibility of a nuclear-capable missile that can reach Miami. And, besides its demonstrated ability to arm drones with missiles, Iran maintains a nuclear program that includes extensive testing of long-range ICBMs. Amid this growing threat, what better source of expertise and equipment than Israel? The country’s near-constant 50-year hot war with various Arab States and non-state terrorist groups has forced it to develop next-generation defense technologies, including Iron Dome for defense against rocket, artillery, mortar and drone attacks, as well as David’s Sling, a short-range cruise missile defense system. Indeed, early this year, the U.S. Army decided to use Iron Dome to protect its forward deployed forces. In July, a Boeing Arrow 3 missile, incorporating the Israeli-developed Tamir intercept system, successfully destroyed three test missiles in the upper atmosphere. Uniquely, Tamir destroyed the missiles without detonating their warheads.
These are just the latest chapters in the decades-long history of U.S.-Israel military cooperation. The Israel Air Force combat experience with U.S.-built F-4s, F-15s, F-16s and now F-35s have provided the U.S. military community valuable operational intelligence and tangible hardware improvements (Israel was the first to modify the F-15 for use as a long-range bomber). The Unites States’ M1 Abrams main battle tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles deployed in Europe are being outfitted with the Israeli-developed Trophy Active Protection System (APS) to detect and destroy incoming projectiles. Using American funds, Israel developed the U.S. Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System for the next-generation F-35, which is now featured in all forward-deployed U.S. Air Force F-15s, F-16s, F-35s and A-14s. Most recently, the U.S. has become the largest foreign beneficiary of the Israeli SMASH 2000 rifle fire control system, which allows the U.S. Army Special Forces marksmen on the ground to accurately attack drones and other moving targets.
Another important dimension of the American-Israel military relationship is the ongoing series of joint training exercises that simulate battlefield conditions—including ballistic missile threats. After the February 2019 Juniper Falcon exercise, in which 300 U.S. military personnel based in Europe came to Israel to train with 400 Israelis, Lt. General Jeffery Harrigan said it was a “great opportunity for U.S. forces to work, once again, with our Israeli partners to improve our combined missile defense capability.” Furthermore, in August 2019, U.S. Navy Seals trained for oil-tanker rescues with their Israeli counterparts—a frighteningly relevant skill, given Iran’s recent capture of oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz.
When Israel decided not to let Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib visit the country due to their support for BDS, Omar and others critiqued the U.S.’s foreign aid to Israel. Unlike the Representatives—and much of the news coverage centering on Israel—would have us believe, the $3.8 billion taxpayers are asked to spend on our ally’s military isn’t an albatross around our necks. It’s a strategic investment in our own military superiority.
George S Blumenthal is an expert in the field of cellular communications, a philanthropist, cultural entrepreneur and a leading voice in the preservation and advocacy of Biblical Archaeology. He heads the Center of Online Jewish Studies.