Commentary Magazine


Israel’s Contribution to Saving American Lives

Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, announced yesterday Israeli missile defense systems will be integrated into a planned U.S. regional defense array, where they will help protect U.S. forces in the Middle East and, perhaps, also Arab allies of America that don’t even have diplomatic relations with Israel. These systems – the Arrow for defense against ballistic missiles, Iron Dome and Magic Wand for shorter-range rockets – are a product of the close American-Israeli alliance: They were developed with generous American funding and in cooperation with American companies, but the technology is primarily Israeli. Now, that technology will be used to save American lives.

Last week, Col. Richard Kemp of the British army related that Israeli know-how is also saving British lives. In 2003, Kemp commanded the British forces in Afghanistan, which were confronting a weapon they had never faced before: suicide bombers. So he called Israel for help. Two days later, an Israeli brigadier general was in London giving him a four-hour briefing on everything Israel had learned from its years of dealing with suicide bombers. “It was from that meeting that my policy for countering suicide bombers in Afghanistan was devised – a policy that was subsequently adopted by all British forces, and has saved lives,” Kemp concluded.

 There are, of course, dozens of similar examples. Israeli technologies helped protect  U.S. forces in Iraq against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). An Israel Defense Forces laboratory for analyzing IEDs has shared  its expertise with numerous countries fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the U.S., Britain, Germany and Italy. Nor, of course, is Israel’s benefit to the West limited to military issues: Israeli technology is found in most computers and cell phones, for instance, while Israeli companies have created tens of thousands of jobs in America.

All this should not even need to be said: After all, that’s how allies are supposed to act. But at a time when most of Europe openly views Israel as a principal obstacle to world peace, and even respected voices in America’s foreign policy establishment (mainly of the “realist” school) assert  the alliance with Israel provides few strategic benefits compared to its costs, it’s worth recalling the truth: Israel and the West are fighting a common enemy – radical Islam. But due to its location, Israel has been on the front lines of this battle for longer than other Western countries, and thus has painfully acquired expertise from which its allies derive enormous benefit every day.

If you believe Islamist terror would magically disappear if Israel did – that the London Underground, Indonesian nightclubs, Pakistani  hospitals  and American naval ships would never again be bombed if it weren’t for Israel – then of course, Israel’s contribution to this war is meaningless. But anyone who grasps the ludicrousness of that belief ought to recognize Israel’s vital role in helping the West minimize its casualties in what seems likely to be a long war.