First-ever int'l missile defense conference held in TA

Speakers from Israeli arms manufacturers Rafael, Elisra and Israel Aerospace Industries discuss the importance of US-Israel cooperation.

May 6, 2010 05:20
4 minute read.
An Arrow 2 missile test

An Arrow 2 missile test. (photo credit: AP)


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With the prominence of short- and long-range rockets and ballistic and cruise missiles on the rise in modern warfare, and with Israel facing regional enemies with said means at their disposal, the Israel Missile Defense Association (IMDA) held the first annual Israel Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference and Exhibition on Wednesday.

Held under the slogan “The Best Defense is an Active Defense,” the two-day event outside Ben-Gurion Airport focused on international cooperation in facing the threat of ballistic missile attacks and the belief that an advanced missile defense system that presents an “active defense” can serve as a powerful deterrent for enemy states.

Speakers, who included officials from Israeli arms manufacturers Rafael, Elisra, and Israel Aerospace Industries, discussed the importance of US-Israel cooperation on the issue of missile defense, as well the growing threat of Hizbullah’s having Iranian and Syrian missile systems and short- and long-range rockets.

In an adjacent hallway, a sales expo was held, bringing together top names from the country’s thriving arms industry. It showcased some of the latest tools in hi-tech warfare for attendees from Israel and a number of its allies, including Italy, the US and Japan.

Frank A. Rose, deputy assistant secretary for defense policy and verification operations in the US State Department, gave a speech in the morning in which, “speaking on behalf of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton” he said that regional missile defense was “built on a strong foundation of US-Israeli cooperation.”

He added that the Obama administration was “devoted to working closely with our friends and allies around the world, including Israel, to defend against the regional threats we face.”

Rose said the conference “serves to highlight the key challenges posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles, particularly short- and medium-range ballistic missile threats and the importance of missile defense in responding to these threats.”

The threats posed by ballistic missiles, he added, endanger “the entire international community.”

Rose said missile defense “plays an important role in the broader US international diplomatic strategy of diplomacy and defense and assures our allies and partners that that the US has the will and the means to deter and, if necessary, defeat ballistic missile attacks against our allies and forwardly deployed personnel and assets.”

He argued that ballistic missiles in the hands of the enemies of the US and its allies could wreak havoc on US diplomatic objectives, saying “our potential adversaries use ballistic missiles in peacetime as tools to support their diplomatic objectives and sometimes to intimidate or coerce their regional neighbors. By offering missile defense as a means of regional protection, we enhance the credibility of US extended deterrence commitments for our allies and friends, which in turn allows us to build coalitions for our shared objectives.”

IMDA executive director Avi Shnurr told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the decision to hold the conference – the first of its kind – “was a very long time coming.”

Shnurr said that every year there was a large missile defense conference held alternately in the United States and Europe, but that “Israel is the country that has the most rockets in the world pointed at it. This is the place with the most serious need.”

According to Shnurr, the main reasons behind the decision to hold the conference were to create an opportunity for people in the field of missile defense, both in Israel and in its ally countries, to meet and exchange ideas, and to increase public awareness of the issue so as to maintain public support for continued development of such projects.

Shnurr said the fact that this conference, unlike its counterparts in the US and Europe, was open to the press would allow the public to play a greater role.

“As the field of ballistic missile defense grows, in a democracy the public needs to be involved and be part of the dialogue on the issue,” he said. “Israel is doing an amazing job of fielding new missile defense systems, and as this continues, in order to maintain and [increase] this momentum, it must continue to be a high priority. This only happens in a democracy if the public is involved at all levels – on the political level, the technological level, and also the media level.”

Shnurr, who made aliya with his family from Los Angeles five years ago and had a long career in the defense world, including working as a consultant for the Pentagon and NATO, said that Israel’s ability to defend against rocket threats had increased greatly since the IMDA was founded three years ago in the wake of the Second Lebanon War.

“There’s no question that we’re in a much better situation today. A lot has been changed in defense doctrine since then,” he asserted. “In terms of the rocket threat, the threat has grown, and the way we deal with it, in terms of doctrine and attack operations and in regard to having integrated incorporated plans, shows there is no question lessons have been learned.”

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