The first US military base in Israel officially began operations on September 19th.
There are also important strategic implications for the US setting up shop in Israel. The base, situated inside the school of the Aerial Defense Division (ADD) of the Israel Air Force, is meant to permanently house dozens of US troops. Israeli Defense Forces Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, and U.S. Maj. Gen. John L. Gronski were the signatories of an agreement during the bases opening ceremony at the ADD base known as Bislach Air Base, located near Mitzpe Ramon.
What was lacking at the ceremony’s speeches was a clear description of the base's operations. Gen. Haimovich spoke generically of the “significant allocation of [US] resources” and that of the “understanding that this was right and necessary and part of the United States’ assets in Israel.”
What Haimovich was likely alluding to were “assets” of the X-Band Radar system, a large radar facility situated near Dimona. The history of this facility and its current operations play an important function in the current regional conflict Israel is dealing with.
The X-Band is a unique radar technology, capable of detecting a ballistic missile launch from hundreds of kilometers away. The technology is an essential part of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system that we’re all hearing so much about in reference to South Korea. The X-Band facility, which is also the highest radar tower in Israel incidentally, is owned and operated by the US. Israel receives only second-hand intelligence from its American operators. X-Band was the “parting gift” of President George W. Bush, who signed the order to set up the system shortly before leaving office in 2008- at the height of the Iran nuclear facility controversy.
Years before Obama’s Iran deal, X-Band was meant to quell Israel’s fears of an Iran missile attack by setting up a defense capable, at least in part, of shielding the country from any launch emanating from that country. X-Band is meant to give immediate forewarning of a launch, enough time to activate accompanying anti-missile countermeasures.
From a strategic perspective, the X-Ban facilities existence communicates America’s commitment to Israeli security in the face of the Iranian threat, even despite not always agreeing with Israel’s methods on how to go about addressing that threat.
With the threat of the Shiite Axis, made up of Iran, Hezbollah, and other militant proxies increasing in the past months, Israel for its part has been signaling that it is prepared to act in its own defense against these threats. One of the largest series of drills in recent IDF history was recently completed in the country’s north. This followed an air strike- widely attributed to Israel- on a Syrian missile production facility.
Simply put, the recent establishment of a US base in Israel reflects the common interests of both America and Israel of keeping Iran and its militant allies in check. It is not a coincidence that the base was inaugurated at a time when the US administration has been coming down hard on Iran, even alluding to the possibility of annulling the deal brokered during the Obama presidency.
It remains unclear if the American presence at Bislach Air Base will have substantial implications day-to-day on the ground. However, there is no question the US military setting up shop on Israeli territory sends a powerful message to both Israel and its enemies regarding American policy in the region.