Star Wars, Israel and the United States

Normally December is filled with Christmas advertising. But this year it was “trumped” by competition. I could easily make the case that Christmas hype was overtaken by political debates, campaigning and the political pundits in the pre-primary season of the U.S. presidential drama. But even that was overtaken by the hype surrounding the December opening of the latest Star Wars movie installment.

President Obama, at the White House menorah lighting ceremony, offered a bridge between Judaism and Star Wars when he stated: “All of us come together, along with Jews around the world, to celebrate a band of Maccabees who inspire us even today. They were outnumbered. They were out-armed. And yet they proved that freedom can prevail over tyranny. Hope can triumph over despair. Light can prevail over darkness. That sounds like a description of the new Star Wars movie.”

But with all the holiday, political and movie hysteria, mid-December offered a Star Wars reference that links Israel and the United States, and it was largely lost on the media.

Let’s rewind to the ambitious 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative of President Ronald Reagan. Better known as the “Star Wars” missile defense system, the proposed system would protect the U.S. from intercontinental ballistic missiles through a combination of ground-based radar units and orbital missile (or laser) deployment platforms. The program did not gain much traction as it was costly and relied on technology that had yet to be developed.

While not ignoring all the developments in U.S. missile defense technology, I focus on Dec. 10, 2015. During the middle of Chanukah and a week before the opening of the latest Star Wars saga, Israel announced it had successfully tested an Arrow 3 missile. Arrow 3 features an “exo-atmospheric” interception of ballistic missiles and ICBMs during the space-flight portion of their trajectory. The Israelis successfully intercepted the bogey missile in space among a bevy of other objects, confirming the missile’s ability to discriminate its target. It may not be lasers, but it is a Star Wars defense.

While the public disagreements between Washington and Jerusalem are abound in the press, the coverage misses the statements from the Israeli and American military leaders noting that strategic cooperation and intelligence sharing is at such high levels never experienced before. We have seen that collaboration at work. During the recent wars with Hamas, the U.S.-financed, U.S.-Israel collaboratively designed and Israeli-built Iron Dome missiles successively intercepted a significant number of Hamas missiles. This joint venture saved hundreds of lives and tens of millions of dollars of destruction. When I was in Israel in 2006 during the War with Hezbollah, I observed launchings of Patriot missiles to counter the longer-range Hezbollah missiles.

The updated Arrow 3 missile, which moves the interception into space, is a continuation of the strategic alliance shared by Israel and the United States. Like previous Arrows and Iron Domes, the Arrow 3 is jointly funded and designed by Israel and the U.S. It would not be possible without the U.S. financing, Israeli technology and Israeli field testing.  

As America and Israel’s adversaries continue to develop new military capabilities, the two allies are working together to perfect the Arrow 3 system. The Arrow 3 will protect against the most advanced long-range missiles, such as the newest of Iran’s Shihab missiles, with ranges expected to exceed 1,800 miles.

The development, testing and deployment of these Star Wars defense systems are not simply to the benefit of Israel. They are also part of the United States’ comprehensive regional and global defense strategies.

The strategic alliance between Israel and the U.S. does not happen without the strong support of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Administration. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) deserves much more than a brief acknowledgement. AIPAC’s lobbying priorities for decades have stressed the vital strategic intelligence and military partnerships between the U.S. and Israel. 

What was practically a science fiction idea in the early 1980s, cynically labeled with the title of a science fiction blockbuster, is becoming an important reality due to the strategic collaboration between the U.S. and Israel. 

If you are interested in travelling to Washington for the March 20-22 AIPAC Policy Conference, call the Federation at 610-821-5500. We have a limited number of discounted registrations available.


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