Defense college to accept more foreign officers

Despite successful first year, some countries complain of high tuition.

gershon hacohen 88 (photo credit: )
gershon hacohen 88
(photo credit: )
Where can you find a French paratrooper, a German tank officer and a United States Marine sitting in a classroom and taking notes during a lecture on a defense-related topic in Hebrew? This is not the beginning of a joke, and the answer is: at the IDF's National Defense College. In August, five foreign military officers will stand next to the dozens of IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Mossad officials at the NDC's graduation ceremony in Glilot, marking the end of the first year during which the military has accepted foreigners into its most prestigious educational institution. While the past year has been marked as a success, OC Military Colleges Maj.-Gen. Gershon Hacohen has run into some difficulty convincing European countries to send their officers to the NDC due to the high costs involved. Unlike some European countries, like Spain, which pay the tuition of foreign military officers who study in their defense colleges, a year at the NDC costs $50,000 per student. One foreign military officer stationed in Israel told The Jerusalem Post that his country had turned down an IDF invitation to send an officer due to the high costs. Despite the setback, sources in the IDF told the Post this week that the NDC planned to accept a number of foreign officers next year. This year, five foreigners studied alongside their Israeli counterparts - a French brigade commander who is slated to be appointed military attach to Israel next year, a US Naval officer, a US Marine, a German armored corps officer and another officer from an undisclosed country. The decision to accept foreign officers into the NDC was made by Hacohen's predecessor Eyal Ben-Reuven together with former chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Dan Halutz, and was part of the IDF's recognition of the importance of strategic cooperation with its allies. At the time, Ben-Reuven appointed Lt.-Col. Zohar Ginnosar as the commander of what has become known as NDC's Foreign Administration. Noting that one of this year's graduates is slated to become the French military attach to Israel, IDF sources said that having foreign officers in the school has helped cultivate relationships between future Israeli and foreign military leaders. The lectures at the NDC are translated simultaneously into English for the foreigners. IDF sources said that the participation of the foreign officers was also an opportunity for the IDF to improve other countries' view of Israel, particularly during the sensitive ongoing political and diplomatic developments in the region. "Their integration into the NDC assists the IDF in forging long-term strategic relationships with senior officers from around the world," an IDF source said. "We also learn from them and they way they deal with the threats their countries face." In response to complaints by foreign officers about the high tuition, the IDF Spokesperson's Office said in a statement that Israel completely understood that finances were a factor for a country when considering whether to send an officer to the NDC. The IDF said that in the case of the French officer, it had created an exchange program in which the French paid for an Israeli officer to study in France and the IDF paid for the French officer to study at the NDC. "It is clear that there are many different defense institutions around the world to choose from and we do not interfere with a country's considerations," the statement read. "We recognize the fact that, as it is for us, the decision to send an officer to an international institution is a question of priorities, as well as a number of other considerations."