In a historic development, the United States, for the first since its inception in 1948, has established a permanent military base in Israel. The US will send dozens of US Air Force personnel to man an air defense base inside the Israeli Air Force’s Mashabim Air Base, deep in the heart of the Negev desert.
The missile defense airmen will boost the abilities of the Israeli air defenses and according to Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, head of the IAF’s Aerial Defense Command, the pact is a big moment for both countries. “It’s nothing short of historic,” he said on Monday evening. It demonstrates the “years-old alliance between the United States and the State of Israel.”
The US ‘base within a base’ at Mashabim is located west of the towns of Dimona and Yerucham.
The Israeli brigadier general also told reporters the establishment of a permanent US base in Israel “allows us to improve our defense, in discovery and in interception and in preparedness.”
According to Haimovitch, the new air base, along with other recent improvements to Israel’s air defense program, “will improve our abilities significantly. It won’t get us to 100 percent, but it will get us much closer to achieving important things during war.”
He said that the importance of air defense was made clear during the 2014 Gaza war, when thousands of rockets were fired at Israel, as well as through “assessments of the threats we expect to face in the future.”
While both US and Israeli commanders stated that the timing of the pact between the two countries doesn’t tie in to any specific events, the message is clear. Iran, who has been stockpiling rockets for their Hezbollah proxies across the border in Lebanon as well as Gaza has been put on notice.
The presence of American airmen will enhance the recently upgraded Israeli “Iron Dome” missile defense systems in place and will allow them to track incoming missile threats to the country.
The process to open the base has been in the works for some time, back to the previous Obama administration and the agreement now will signify a US flag flying on a US base in Israel for the first time.
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Photo courtesy Israeli Defense Forces