Archive for the ‘Israeli technology’ category

Toward a True US-Israel Partnership

February 24, 2017

Toward a True US-Israel Partnership, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, February 24, 2017

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Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

Unlike the US, Israel has used the past generation to develop cutting edge technological capabilities in almost all of the areas where the Americans are lagging behind their competitors. Under these circumstances, Obama’s military assistance is exposed not merely as bad for Israel. It is bad for the US as well.

Israel can help the US compensate for its current scientific disadvantages. Israeli technological innovations can help the US to rebuild its independent capabilities and leapfrog its competitors far more rapidly than it can do on its own today.

An R&D partnership with Israel is also aligned with Trump’s vision for a renewed role for the US in global affairs. As Defense Secretary James Mattis told the US’s NATO allies this week, the US will not continue carrying the load of protecting the West on its own. It wants its allies to be its partners, not its dependents.

In Mattis’s words, “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense.”

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In his speech before the members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations in Jerusalem this week, President Reuven Rivlin said that Israel has three overriding foreign policy concerns: “Number 1: Relations with America. Number 2: Relations with America. Number 3: Relations with America.”

There is a lot of truth in Rivlin’s hyperbolic statement.

Israel’s security depends on its relationship with the US. After all, the Russians and the Chinese won’t sell Israel fighter planes. Russia couldn’t develop strategic ties with Israel even if it wanted to. Its Iranian ally wouldn’t let it.

As for China, its mercantilist view of the Middle East makes it indifferent to the power balances in the region. Beijing may not harbor hostile intentions toward Israel, but it will act in a hostile fashion if it views China’s interests as advanced by such hostility.

While Israel rightly is working to diversify its foreign ties to move beyond the narrow scope of its alliance with the US, the fact is that with or without Australia and sub-Saharan Africa, the US remains Israel’s irreplaceable ally.

Unfortunately, today even the friendliest US administration cannot be relied on to secure Israel’s long-term capacity to defend itself. Israel faces enemy forces equipped with Russian and Chinese technologies – including Russian forces in Syria – that are rapidly challenging American systems in key areas. So long as the US remains behind the technological eight ball, Israel’s long-term reliance on its military ties to the US is a dangerous proposition.

Things didn’t use to be this way. At the start of the 21st century, America’s military power was unrivaled. From the end of the Cold War until the turn of the century, neither Russia nor China could challenge the US and its status as the sole global superpower.

That is no longer the case.

In a distressing article published this week in the American Affairs Journal, David Goldman details the technological crisis the US is steeped in today.

Goldman notes that the US is lagging behind the Russians and the Chinese in air defense systems and technologies, missile technology, particularly hypersonic missile technologies, submarine warfare, cyber warfare technologies and satellite interdiction capabilities.

To bridge the gap and outpace the Chinese and the Russians, Goldman argues that the US needs to initiate massive government-funded research and development programs.

In the post-Cold War era, Goldman notes ruefully, Americans have forgotten that they were ever vulnerable, that their victory against the USSR was anything but preordained.

The actual history, Goldman reminds us, was quite different. The US victory in the Cold War was the result of conscious decisions by US leaders to outstrip Soviet technology after American technology was shown to be lagging behind.

In 1957, the Americans reacted to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik with a crash program in space exploration. That program, which benefited from lavish federal funding, ended the Soviets’ advantage in aerospace technology inside of a decade.

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Americans realized that the Egyptian success in downing Israeli jets over Sinai in the early days of the war meant that the Soviet surface-to-air missiles Egypt fielded had neutralized US air superiority. The Americans realized that the Soviets’ technological advantage meant that they would win a land war in Europe.

Consequently, Goldman explains, the US initiated détente to avert a war in Europe. At the same time, the Americans began to develop the technologies to defeat the Soviets. Massive public investments in defense R&D followed. A decade later, Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative; the Soviets realized they couldn’t compete, and eight years later, the USSR collapsed.

The Americans weren’t the only ones to respond to Israel’s air losses in 1973 with a massive investment in defense R&D aimed at destroying Russia’s technological advantage with its surface-to-air missiles.

Israel responded to its exposed vulnerabilities by developing the electronic warfare capabilities to neutralize Soviet SAM batteries. As Goldman recalls, in 1982, Israel matched US air platforms – the F-16 and F-15 – used in combat for the first time in the Lebanon War – with its own homegrown computer- based electronic warfare systems. So equipped, Israel eliminated Syria’s Soviet-built surface-to-air batteries and its Soviet-supplied air force, in a stunning air victory.

Whereas in the 1950s and the 1970s, the US had the domestic scientific capacity to quickly regroup in the face of Soviet technological advances, today the US’s path to rebuilding its technological advantage is less clear. Since the Cold War, the US government slashed its investment in military R&D.

According to Goldman, as a percentage of GDP, today US government investment in R&D is barely half of what it was in 1978.

Goldman bemoans the self-imposed evisceration of America’s capacity to develop the knowledge it requires to regain the technological advantage over the Chinese and the Russians.

In his words, “The national laboratories are hollowed out, and the major corporate laboratories (at IBM, the Bell System, General Electric, and RCA among others) that contributed significantly to defense R&D during the Cold War no longer exist. Within the shrinking defense R&D budget, a disproportionate share has been squandered on the F-35, a poorly conceived and executed weapons system with the highest price tag in defense history.”

And it won’t be easy to rebuild them. For 25 years, the US has not only shut down its own laboratories, it has done little to encourage its citizens to acquire the knowledge they need to rebuild that capacity.

Goldman notes for instance that currently, China graduates twice the number of STEM PhDs from its universities as the US.

This brings us back to Israel. In the 1980s, the US regarded the stunning technological advances Israel had made with suspicion. America feared that Israel’s growing technological capabilities would diminish its dependence on the US, at a time when the US was most concerned with keeping the Arab states inside the anti-Soviet bloc and keeping the Soviets out of the Middle East.

Last year, then-president Barack Obama forced Israel to agree to a multi-year military assistance package that if implemented will diminish Israel’s independent technological capabilities while expanding Israel’s technological dependence on the US.

While the aid package increases the amount of US funds Israel is permitted to spend on US systems from $3.1 billion to $3.3b. per year, the deal phases out Israel’s right to use a quarter of the funds on its domestically built systems.

Obama’s aid package also denies Israel and Congress the ability to initiate joint projects to meet new challenges as they arise.

In short, Obama’s deal ensures Israel will be incapable of acting on its own and will remain dependent on US goodwill and technologies for the foreseeable future.

This then brings us back to the US’s swiftly vanishing technology advantage.

Unlike the US, Israel has used the past generation to develop cutting edge technological capabilities in almost all of the areas where the Americans are lagging behind their competitors. Under these circumstances, Obama’s military assistance is exposed not merely as bad for Israel. It is bad for the US as well.

Israel can help the US compensate for its current scientific disadvantages. Israeli technological innovations can help the US to rebuild its independent capabilities and leapfrog its competitors far more rapidly than it can do on its own today.

An R&D partnership with Israel is also aligned with Trump’s vision for a renewed role for the US in global affairs. As Defense Secretary James Mattis told the US’s NATO allies this week, the US will not continue carrying the load of protecting the West on its own. It wants its allies to be its partners, not its dependents.

In Mattis’s words, “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense.”

Earlier this month, Prof. Hillel Frisch published a short paper for Bar-Ilan University’s BESA Center showing the utter dishonesty of the claim that Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid. Frisch noted that US military assistance to Japan, Germany, Italy and South Korea far outstrips its assistance to Israel. All of those states receive US military assistance in the form of US forces permanently deployed to their territory to protect them. Israel, on the other hand, receives aid in military equipment only. No US assets are endangered, no US forces are required to defend Israel. And the financial burden of the former is far great than that of the latter.

Trump is interested in states like Japan and Germany transforming their strategic relations with the US from relationships based on dependency to partnerships by increasing their military spending.

What Israel’s technological and innovation prowess shows is that as far as Israeli defense assistance is concerned, the US should base its relations with Jerusalem on each sides’ complementary capabilities.

America and Israel should abrogate Obama’s military assistance package and replace it with a partnership based on US finance of Israeli R&D projects geared toward developing weapons systems and technologies that both the US and Israel require.

The deal should stipulate the modalities for both sides sharing the technologies with third parties, and their rights to use the technologies developed by Israel with US capital for civilian commercial purposes. Israel should be permitted to purchase US platforms based on Israeli-developed technologies.

Such a partnership would enable Israel to ensure that its continued dependence on the US won’t place it at a disadvantage vis-à-vis its enemies such as Iran, which are able to purchase advanced weapons systems from Russia and China. Such a partnership would ensure that both the US and Israel have the systems they need to outpace Chinese and Russian technological advances and develop the weapons systems they need to win tomorrow’s wars.

In his remarks before the Conference of Presidents, Rivlin voiced concern at the fact that Israel has become a partisan football in US politics. His concern is well placed.

Assuming that Israel’s dependence on the US will be a fixed variable for the foreseeable future, Israel needs to consider the best way of ensuring that the alliance will persevere regardless of the partisan attachments of future presidents.

The best way to ensure the resilience of the US-Israel alliance over time is for Israel to transform its military dependence into a mutually beneficial alliance with the US. A new military relationship based on joint technology development rather than Israeli purchase of US platforms is the best way to accomplish that goal, for the benefit of both countries.

The Resilience of Israel

December 29, 2016

The Resilience of Israel, Town HallVictor Davis Hanson, December 29, 2016

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The Obama administration’s estrangement from Israel has had the odd effect of empowering Israel.

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Israel would seem to be in a disastrous position, given the inevitable nuclear capabilities of Iran and the recent deterioration of its relationship with the United States, its former patron and continued financial benefactor.

Immediately upon entering office, President Obama hectored Israel on so-called settlements. Obama promised to put “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel — and delivered on that promise.

Last week, the U.S. declined to veto, and therefore allowed to pass, a United Nations resolution that, among other things, isolates Israel internationally and condemns the construction of housing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Obama has long been at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over objections from the Obama administration, Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress last year about the existential dangers of the Obama-brokered Iran deal and the likelihood of a new Middle East nuclear proliferation race.

Obama then doubled down on his irritation with Netanyahu through petty slights, such as making him wait during White House visits. In 2014, an official in the Obama administration anonymously said Netanyahu, a combat veteran, was a “coward” on Iran.

At a G-20 summit in Cannes, France, in 2011, Obama, in a hot-mic slip, trashed Netanyahu. He whined to French President Nicolas Sarkozy: “You’re tired of him? What about me? I have to deal with him every day.”

In contrast, Obama bragged about his “special” relationship with autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Never mind that Erdogan seems to want to reconstruct Turkey as a modern Islamist version of the Ottoman Empire, or that he is anti-democratic while Israel is a consensual society of laws.

The Middle East surrounding democratic Israel is a nightmare. Half a million have died amid the moonscape ruins of Syria. A once-stable Iraq was overrun by the Islamic State.

The Arab Spring, U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the coup of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to regain control of Egypt, and the bombing of Libya all have left North Africa in turmoil.

Iran has been empowered by the U.S.-brokered deal and will still become nuclear.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bombers blast civilians not far from Israel’s borders.

Democrats are considering Rep. Keith Ellison as the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee despite his past ties to the Nation of Islam and his history of anti-Israel remarks.

Yet in all this mess, somehow Israel is in its best geostrategic position in decades. How?

The answer is a combination of unintended consequences, deft diplomacy, political upheavals in Europe and the United States, and Israel’s own democratic traditions.

Huge natural gas and oil finds off Israel’s Mediterranean coast and in the Golan Heights have radically changed Israel’s energy and financial positions. Israel no longer needs to import costly fossil fuels and may soon be an exporter of gas and oil to needy customers in Europe and the Middle East. (America recently became the world’s greatest producer of carbon energy and also no longer is dependent on Middle Eastern oil imports, resulting in less political influence by Arab nations.) Israel is creating its own version of Silicon Valley at Beersheba, which is now a global hub of cybersecurity research.

The Obama administration’s estrangement from Israel has had the odd effect of empowering Israel.

Rich Persian Gulf states see Obama as hostile both to Israel and to themselves, while he appeases the common enemy of majority-Shiite Iran.

After a “leading from behind” U.S withdrawal from the Middle East, many Arab nations now see Israel more as a powerful ally against Iran than as an old existential enemy. They also see Israel as a country that has likewise been snubbed by America.

The idea of an Arab-Israeli understanding is surreal, but it is developing from shared fears of being targets of Iranian bombing and American indifference.

Many of Israel’s neighbors are threatened by either ISIS or al-Qaida nihilists. Those deadly dangers remind the world that democratic, free-market Israel is the sole safe port amid a rising Middle East tsunami.

Changing Western politics are empowering Israel as well.

More than 2 million migrants — for the most part, young males from the war-torn Middle East — have terrified Europe, especially after a series of radical Islamic terrorist killings. Suddenly, Europe is far more worried about Israel’s neighbors than about lecturing Israel itself.

Pushback against the Obama administration extends to its foreign policy. President-elect Donald Trump may be more pro-Israel than any recent U.S. president. And he may be the first U.S. leader to move the American embassy to Israel’s capital in West Jerusalem.For all the chaos and dangers abroad, the map of global energy, Western politics and Middle Eastern alliances has been radically redrawn.At the center is a far stronger Israel that has more opportunities than at any other time in its history. It will have an even brighter future after Obama has left office.

Israel Puts the Spike Missile on its Apache Helicopters

November 17, 2016

Israel Puts the Spike Missile on its Apache Helicopters, Gatestone InstituteStephen Bryen and Shoshana Bryen, November 17, 2016

For this reason, Israel concluded that the U.S. under Obama was not a reliable supplier of either helicopters or missiles.

Israel’s Spike is superior to the Hellfire. It has longer range, making it safer to use against an enemy that possesses shoulder-fired ground to air missiles.

Worse yet, despite Saudi Arabia’s horrible bombing performance in Yemen, the U.S. continues to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and has stepped up shipments of munitions.

The Spike is a better option than the Hellfire and safer to use, which is why 25 nations now use the missile and 25,000 or more have been produced.

 

Sometimes when decisions do not work out exactly as intended, they work out just fine.

In the midst of Operation Protective Edge — Israel’s response to 182 Hamas rockets and mortarsfired at Israeli towns and villages in the first week of July 2014 — the Obama administration accused Israel of “heavy handed battlefield tactics,” including the use of artillery instead of precision-guided munitions. U.S. President Barack Obama halted the supply of Hellfire missilesand announced that all military equipment supplied to Israel would be vetted individually in the White House, instead of shipped, according to prior agreements, by the Pentagon to Israel.

The President, it appears, had been reading wild press stories about the damage to Gaza — which ultimately turned out to be concentrated in areas in which Hamas was stockpiling munitions and rockets and conducting command and control operations, which included firing more than 2,700 rockets and missiles during the rest of July. Israel struck an UNRWA-administered school, prompting cries of outrage, but UNRWA later admitted that it covered up that Hamas had used the school for military operations.

The Hellfire decision was especially ironic because it is a precision munition, generally less broadly damaging than bombs dropped from aircraft. The Hellfire can be fired from airplanes, drones and helicopters.

Ironic, too, because the United States has used Hellfire missiles against terrorists — often without the permission of the countries in which the terrorists were killed. A Hellfire was used to kill Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn, American citizens, in Yemen. Al-Awlaki was designated a terrorist, and Kahn the editor of the al-Qaeda magazine Inspire, but U.S. law may have been violated by their assassination.

Israel carried the Hellfire on its Apache helicopters — and the story of Israel’s purchase of 42 Apaches is also one of difficulty. In 2009, the Obama administration blocked the delivery of six of the Apaches to Israel, on the grounds Israel might use them in Gaza. U.S.-Israel military cooperation on the Apache was made difficult and as Obama’s dislike of Israel and Israeli security policy increased, the Hellfire on the Apache became the White House target.

For this reason, Israel concluded that the U.S. under Obama was not a reliable supplier of either helicopters or missiles. After the 2014 operation in Gaza, Israel turned to the Israeli manufacturer Rafael, developer of the hugely successful and potent Spike anti-tank missile. Rafael was to adapt Spike technology to the Apache, while the helicopter retained Hellfire capability at the same time.

The decision was fairly easy, because Israel was already working on adopting the Spike to helicopters in Europe, where the Spike is a big hit. Spain has already installed the Spike ER version on its Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters. Others in Europe and Asia are doing the same.

2048A Tiger attack helicopter carrying two racks of Israeli Spike ER missiles. (Image source: Airbus Helicopters)

Israel’s Spike is superior to the Hellfire. It has longer range, making it safer to use against an enemy that possesses shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles known as MANPADS. Since Benghazi, sophisticated MANPADS, including US-made Stingers (the same as were used in Afghanistan in “Charlie Wilson’s War”), have been smuggled from Libya and are now in the hands of terrorists including Hezbollah and ISIS.

The Spike features a non-line-of-sight firing capability, making it a more flexible weapon. But one feature of Spike that is entirely missing in Hellfire is that the operator can change target in mid-course or even destroy the weapon in flight if the target turns out to be wrong — a capability that is not trivial. During the Yugoslav war, NATO aircraft on a number of occasions hit targets that should have been aborted. One such incident occurred during an attack to knock out the Grdelica Bridge near Belgrade on April 12, 1999. When the missile was launched, the bridge was empty; when it struck some minutes later a civilian train was crossing and destroyed. On May 1, 1999 in Kosovo, NATO planes hit a bridge at Luzane where, again, a school bus came along after the missile was launched, killing many school children.

The Obama administration should never have cut off the sale of a precision weapon such as the Hellfire in the middle of battle. It was bad policy: it signaled the unreliability of the U.S. at that time as an ally. Worse yet, despite Saudi Arabia’s horrible bombing performance in Yemen, the U.S. continues to sell the Saudis billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, and has stepped up shipments of munitions. So Israelis have reason to believe that America failed her at a moment when it counted.

But there is a silver lining. The Spike is a better option than the Hellfire and safer to use, which is why 25 nations now use the missile and 25,000 or more have been produced.