Friday, July 08, 2016
Billy Long: U. S.-Israel partnership vital
As a stronghold for freedom and democracy in the Middle East, Israel stands as America’s most valuable strategic ally in the region. Shared values among our people have built a sturdy US-Israel partnership. However, our shared adversaries – threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism – also play a major role in bringing us even closer to meet parallel global objectives.
Together, our nations have developed and invested in new technologies like Israel’s Iron Dome missile protections – a short-range air defense system that heads off enemy rockets mostly aimed at innocent civilian populations. Before Iron Dome, in Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, thousands of rockets rained on Israeli communities resulting in destroyed communities and numerous civilian deaths. But in 2014, Hamas air attacks proved no match against the newly implemented Iron Dome, which intercepted 730 terrorist rockets saving countless lives.
With this massive improvement, the system is now considered one of the most impactful combat-tested missile shields in existence. Still though, growing terror threats have required a focus on building an even stronger defense on the success of Iron Dome. With this in mind, the US has contributed more than $3 billion to Israel’s production of the medium-range David’s Sling, along with the long-range Arrow 1 and Arrow 2 missile interceptor systems.
While in Israel in May of this year, I visited an Iron Dome battery site, along with Hatzor and Palmachim Israeli Airbases first-hand. I was given briefings by the officer experts at these installations on the continuing progress of the Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems. The very next day, I met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where he expressed his enthusiasm for the strategic advantage the missile shield would continue to provide our military forces.
Prime Minister Netanyahu had ample reason for the enthusiasm. In March, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Israeli Missile Defense Organization (MDO) successfully synced these three programs with America’s Aegis, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), and Patriot missile defense systems. After these six systems’ proven value in simulation, I voted for the passage of the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act,” which underscores America’s support for Israel by reinvesting in each of these missile defenses along with funds to bolster their military operations infrastructure.
For decades, Congress has supported the defense of Israel on a bipartisan basis due to our shared security interests. This partnership pays dividends in other ways too. The US-Israel alliance has provided mutual benefit when sharing new military technologies, like Israeli-made Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and some tank armors currently used by America’s Armed Forces. In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April, Director of the MDA, Vice Adm. James Syring, lauded that Israel’s “testing has been extremely successful,” and we need to share this technical data “so we can take that information and use it to our advantage for our systems and our interceptors.”
US-Israel cooperation has also proven to generate new American jobs and boost our industries. In 2012, Raytheon paired with an Israeli contractor during the construction of Iron Dome which proved to be a surge for their operations. In 2014, the MDA shed light on this agreement as a “model for the future” that would sustain economic industry in America while meeting Israeli defense needs.
In 1948, the US became the first nation to formally recognize the new State of Israel, when President Truman granted de-facto recognition just eleven minutes after the Jewish People’s Council declared self-rule. It has proved a worthy partnership ever since and will be even more vital going forward in the war on terror.