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Israel Asks US to Expand Joint Air Defense Drills

Sputnik News

23:48 14.08.2015 (updated 02:22 15.08.2015)

As rumors surface of Tel Aviv’s unwillingness to cooperate militarily with Washington in light of the recently brokered Iran nuclear deal, an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) air force commander insists that the military is in fact looking to expand bilateral drills with the United States, rather than nix them.

On August 6, veteran Israeli journalist Amir Rappaport published a story in the Hebrew language paper Israel Defense indicating that, due to simmering tensions between Tel Aviv and Washington over the Iran nuclear deal, Israeli political leaders have declined offers for military and security cooperation with the US.

According to Defense News, Rapaport lamented the "absurd situation where the Americans are willing to offer us more than we want to receive."

The report was quickly picked up and circulated by other Israeli media. Citing Rapaport’s article, the coverage suggested that the Iran agreement represented such a betrayal to Israeli leaders that they refused to be bought off by Washington’s military support.

A "first hint" of this falling apart, according to the Jewish Press, was the meeting between US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon immediately after the Iran deal was brokered. The two military leaders were meant to discuss a security compensation package offered by the US, but Ya’alon "politely declined" the offer.

"The Americans," Jewish Press reported, citing Rapaport’s article, "are all too eager to cooperate with Israel, while Israeli political leadership has decided that the IDF will not cooperate with the Americans."

As the reports continued to circulate, and speculations mounted about waning US-Israeli relations, military officials were quick to dispel them. IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lener posted on Twitter that drills between both countries are to continue as planned.

Further, an Israeli military source speaking to Defense News noted that, far from cutting military ties, the IDF is in fact planning on expanding military exercises. More specifically, the air force commander said that Israeli military officials are currently negotiating plans with the US to include forward-deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) for the upcoming air and missile defense drill, code named Juniper Cobra (JC).

"The Americans didn’t yet agree to our request," the commander told Defense News. "We’re bringing our new David’s Sling and we’d like them to bring THAAD, in addition to their other capabilities."

Slated for early 2016, JC is a biannual joint drill between the US and Israeli military, and is expected to include a number of cooperative activities, including a US-financed military defense system. According to the air force commander, the upcoming JC16 drill is expected to be much larger than the one conducted in May 2014.

To give some perspective, the bilateral JC14 drill was a five day long computer-simulated defense exercise, in which some 700 US military personnel were forward-deployed to Israel. An additional hundreds of US troops participated in the drill throughout US and Europe.

So, not only is Israel planning on maintaining its military relations with the US, but, according to Defense News, the bilateral military drills are likely to significantly expand.

"On the contrary," the commander said in response to Rapaport’s article, "We’re the ones seeking to build upon previous successes. Just last week, we had another bilateral coordinating meeting and as far as we’re concerned, it’s business as usual."


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