Tuesday, November 16, 2010

IAF Acquiring Advanced F-35 Aircraft Should not be Linked to Settlement Freeze Issue

Promises by the U.S. Administration to expedite the delivery of 20 sophisticated F-35 "stealth bomber" aircraft to the Israeli Air Force, is now part of a deal being offered on condition that Israel re-impose a ban on construction in the West Bank, according to news articles in the Jerusalem Post and other media sources. The aircraft are manufactured by Lockheed Martin and cost $ 135 million each; much more than the current upgrades of the F-16i fighter, which is the current mainstay of the IAF's fighter aircraft fleet.

The primary advantage of the F-35 is its ability to fly through enemy radar systems with less chance of being detected. According to a recent statement by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, "the F-35 is the fighter plane of the future that will allow Israel to maintain its aerial superiority and its technological advantage in the region said. It will give the IAF better capabilities, both near and far, to help strengthen Israel's national security."

The promise by the US Administration in including these planes in the military aid package that Israel receives from America is reported to be tied to an overall agreement that will give Israel stronger support in the United Nations, in addition to the aircraft and other military aid to enable Israel to maintain its qualitative edge over its enemies – particularly ones like Syria and Iran. The additional 90 day moratorium on housing construction in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is focused primarily on convincing the Palestinians to resume talks with Israeli government authorities over the status of areas that will be included in a final peace agreement that will culminate in the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The 90 day moratorium, which was discussed by Israeli PM Netanyahu with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton during his recent visit to the US, is meant to be a good will gesture toward the Palestinians, according to US Administration officials.
However, opponents to this kind of a deal, including former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe (Boogie) Ya'Alon, call the deal a "honey trap" that could cause problems between Israel and the US in the future.

It must be noted that the Israeli government effected a total disengagement from Gaza in August 2005 that resulted in the eventual takeover there by the fundamentalist Hamas Islamic political entity and the subsequent bombardment of Israeli cities and settlements by missiles launched from within Gaza. This action resulted in the Operation Cast Lead military action taken by Israel at the end of December, 2008.

The reality of what is occurring in Gaza is evidence that a qualitative military edge is not an important factor in dealing with adversaries such as Hamas, and that aircraft like the F-35 are needed to deal with enemies further a field – especially Iran with its ongoing nuclear program; which is feared by most Israelis as being designed to enable the Islamic Republic to have a nuclear weapons capability.

For their part, the Palestinians, represented by persons such as PA President Mahmoud Abbas, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat want Israel to return to the June 5 1967 borders as a basis for a final settlement.
Judging from what has happened in the Gaza Strip, Israel needs more than just "a promise of stealth warplanes" to deal with potential enemies who are located less than 20 miles from Israel's main population centers. This aircraft acquisition by the IAF should therefore not be linked to the settlement construction issue in the West Bank.

Photo: www.sanfranciscosentinal.com

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