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Israel Air Force is Deadlier Than Ever: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet, May 8, 2014— At first we'll experience a number of tough days. Rockets and missiles, directed mainly at the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
Above and Beyond: the Birth of the Israeli Air Force: Daniel Smajovits, Jewish Tribune, Feb. 19, 2014— The Valley of Elah blends seamlessly into the landscape of Israel.
The Yom Kippur War Was 40 Years Ago. Everything You Thought You Knew About It Is Wrong: Michael B. Oren, New Republic, Oct. 15, 2013— Egyptians marked the fortieth anniversary of their army's putative triumph over Israel by bloodying one another in Tahrir Square.
Remembering the Yom Kippur War, 40 Years On: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 13, 2013
40 Years Since the Yom Kippur War #1: The First Strike: IDF Blog, Oct. 7, 2013
Three films to focus on Israeli Air Force: Jewish Journal, Feb. 27, 2013
Sample Reel for 'Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force' (Video): Playmount Productions, 2014
Ynet, May 8, 2014
At first we'll experience a number of tough days. Rockets and missiles, directed mainly at the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. The aerial defense will mostly defend strategic facilities and bases, in the big cities buildings will collapse and there will be casualties. But it won't last for long. The Israel Air Force will respond immediately, and after a few days we will see a significant drop in the number of missiles fired on Israel. A ceasefire will follow, there will be some more rocket fire, and then a truce and relative calm for several years thanks to the restored deterrence. This is the serious but reasonable scenario the IDF is preparing for, and this is the political echelon's strategic target. It will be a "high-trajectory war." Whether the rocket fire comes from Syria, Lebanon, Gaza or Iran – the goal will to end it quickly in order to minimize damages and losses, while causing maximum damage on the other side, so that it feels the urgency to pursue a ceasefire.
Israel Air Force (IAF) Commander Major-General Amir Eshel and senior IAF officers believe it is possible – and even more: With the intelligence, the arms and aircraft available at the Air Force's disposal, they believe it could reach the described achievements on its own, without the IDF having to maneuver its way into enemy territory, and it must be allowed to do so. If Major-General Eshel and his people are right, we are talking about a significant reduction in the number of casualties and a huge saving in resources considering the astronomic cost – about NIS 1 billion ($290 million) – of every day of fighting. What the IAF commander is suggesting is in fact a real revolution in the IDF's combat perception, which will dramatically affect the need to equip and train the ground forces, and the budgetary list of priorities.
I already heard the claim that the Air Force can do the job on its own once before from Dan Halutz, when he served as IAF commander before being appointed chief of staff. That claim was proven wrong in the Second Lebanon War, and that's the reason it still raises many doubts today. Of course not all senior IDF officers agree with the IAF's assessments. Many generals, who are aware of the Air Force's abilities and respect them, still believe that the army must operate on the ground in order to paralyze the firing of thousands of rockets and missiles.
The short period of action is also seen as unlikely. The IAF officials respond with quite a convincing argument: If we are attacked suddenly, it will anyway take us time to gather all the ground forces and overcome attacks on emergency depots and traffic arteries. At the same time, we will have an opportunity to get the job done through aerial attacks. Simultaneously, they say, we are preparing to offer the ground forces significant help in the fighting. "We are not gambling," Eshel explains. "We know that we are perceived both by the public and by senior state officials as the people of Israel's insurance policy, and the expectations from us are high. Perhaps too high. But we are not confused. We remember that we're not alone and we are building an ability to integrate." In Operation Pillar of Defense, he notes, the IAF prevented the need for a ground operation in Gaza, and the deterrence is more or less "working" till this very day.
I witnessed the IAF's preparations to significantly improve its ability to aid the ground forces several weeks ago, when I joined a detention and patrol activity in the Hebron area, which was combined with preparations for a war: A drill simulating the takeover of a Lebanese village. As we moved forward, the Paratroopers Brigade commander pointed at a fighter bending behind a terrace, and whispered in my war that his name is Lieutenant Colonel T., the F-16 squadron commander. Quite an unusual event in the IDF reality. T., who was equipped and armed and acted like a regular fighter, explained naturally that he had joined the operation at his own initiative because he wanted to understand how the infantry forces move and operate during fighting and how he and his pilots could help them from close up – very close. A warplane helping ground forces with gunfire and missile fire is a "natural" mission. A warplane dropping a one-ton bomb on a house and delaying the progress of a ground force – that's an entirely different story.
But aiding the ground forces is not the IAF's first mission. In the past two years, it has been preparing mainly for goal approved by the chief of staff, defense minister and prime minister – to be ready to shorten the fighting which could erupt at any minute, and this places immediate and even heavier responsibility on the shoulders of Eshel and his people. Neutralizing tens of thousands of rockets and missiles in Lebanon and Gaza is a Sisyphean mission. The immobile launchers from which the missiles are fired to a larger range, with the heavy and relatively accurate warhead, are fortified and well hidden in the homes of citizens or in hidden launching holes (dug in the ground and operated by remote control); their operators move between them, rearm them and hit the IDF forces moving towards them through tunnels.
The main difficultly is using intelligence to locate them, and targeting them may also lead to the killing of uninvolved civilians and stir up the world against us. Hunting for the portable launchers is even more difficult. It requires close surveillance of the launching areas, and if they are located – an aircraft or another instrument is needed to accurately hit the launchers' truck while it is still exposed on the ground or while its driver is attempting to hide under the pillars of a building.
In the Second Lebanon War, the IAF was successful – facing a store of missiles which is at least six times smaller than what Hezbollah has today – but these missions proved to be tough even then. In addition ,the pilots will have to operate while bases are being fired on and defend themselves against Russian-made antiaircraft missiles which may have reached Hezbollah, or shoulder missiles which may have reached the Gazans. In order to overcome the difficulties and climb up according to the extent of the task, the IAF has been undergoing some processes of change in the past two years. The most important process is the effort to increase the "attack outputs": The number of sorties, but mainly the number of attacked targets and the damage inflicted on them…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jewish Tribune, Feb. 19, 2014
The Valley of Elah blends seamlessly into the landscape of Israel. Located an hour north of Be’er Sheva, it is said that it was there where David killed Goliath. Thousands of years later, the Israeli Defence Forces crisscrossed that same terrain during the War of Independence. Equipped with technology equivalent to that of David’s slingshot, they mounted their own campaign for survival attempting to follow in their ancestor’s footsteps. Yet, for the fledgling Jewish state, having any sort of an air presence would be impossible. While many miracles took place during the fight for independence, the greatest of which came in the sky – a story which is being brought to life by Nancy Spielberg in her latest documentary Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force.
While known today as one of the world’s elite military units, through the eyes of former Machal (volunteers from abroad) pilots, Spielberg brings audiences back to the very beginning, where these brave individuals planted the seeds for today’s Israeli Air Force. For Spielberg, in addition to honouring the ‘Machalniks,’ this documentary was also about passing down the story to future generations. “It’s not just foreigners who do not know this story, but a lot of Israelis do not know about this and a lot of current [IAF] pilots do not even know about this. For me, one of the most critical demographics for this film is the younger demographic. There is a huge rise in apathy on college campuses. It’s not that they’re anti-Israel, they just do not see where Israel fits into their lives,” said Spielberg. “What my brother (Hollywood icon Stephen Spielberg) did with the Shoah Foundation was incredible; it is only a shame that we did not do this earlier to get some more testimony from those Machal soldiers,” she added. “This is how we will be teaching history in the future.”
During the tumultuous time that was Israel’s infancy, volunteers, numbering more than 4,000 in total, flocked to Israel from around the world. One of those volunteers was Canadian George (Buzz) Beurling. A Montreal native, he was arguably one of Canada’s most distinguished heroes from World War II. Following his prowess in the war, Beurling volunteered to join the Israeli Air Force, but was killed test-flying planes in 1948. For his sacrifice and heroism, Beurling was buried in Israel as a war hero. “There wasn’t a newspaper ad saying ‘Join the Haganah,’ it was illegal. I knew there was going to be a war there, I’m a fighter pilot and I wanted to go there,” recalled Lou Lenart, in the documentary. “The Arab countries had established air forces. We had almost nothing. [We had] four junk airplanes with different propellers and different engines from spare parts that the German Air Force left behind in Czechoslovakia.” “I remember sitting in the cockpit of my ME109 [German World War II aircraft] wearing a German uniform, a German helmet and a German parachute. What’s a nice Jewish boy from St. Paul doing in a place like this?” added Leon Frankel in the film. “The irony of it did not escape any of us.” “They were all very skilled pilots and navigators, many of whom emerged from World War II as highly decorated heroes,” added Spielberg. “Several people say that this was a miracle. I believe that Israel’s existence to present day is a miracle. When the scud missiles fall and no one dies or when the Iron Dome goes into effect: it’s a land of miracles.”
Yet, while Israel thrives today as an independent and powerful nation, her place in the world was a distant and perhaps unattainable dream for Zionists in 1948. However, as Frankel recalled, there was a more immediate role that they played, one that would have been worth the ultimate sacrifice, if it would eventually lead to victory. “Shortly before I left, I happened to be in Tel Aviv when they were bringing in refugees from the death camps in Europe,” he added. “I remember them getting down on their hands and knees and kissing the ground, I knew then and there that was the reason that I came.”…
Michael B. Oren
New Republic, Oct. 15, 2013
Egyptians marked the fortieth anniversary of their army's putative triumph over Israel by bloodying one another in Tahrir Square. Syrians, too, commemorated the date with internecine violence. Only in Israel were chests, rather than heads, beaten in collective remembrance. The contrast illustrated the curious ways history can be marshaled, forgotten, and mourned. Memory indeed serves, but ever-changing masters. The Yom Kippur War—Arabs prefer the Ramadan War, as though it was a battle between fasts—erupted on the afternoon of October 6, 1973, when Egyptian and Syrian forces surprised and overran Israeli positions. The following three weeks of fighting was brutal, the scale monumental. Rarely in the post–World War II period have the actions of both senior and junior commanders, the mass movement of armored and artillery formations, and the maneuvering of entire armies determined the course of a conflict and its outcome. Never again—thankfully—did the Cold War combine with nuclear brinkmanship and OPEC blackmail to produce a global, nearly apocalyptic crisis. And an historical debate that rages to this day. Indeed, the moment the war concluded, the fight over its legacy commenced.
In Egypt, for example, legions of schoolchildren daily ascend to Cairo's Citadel to tour the National Military Museum and its immense 1973 pavilion. Inside a nineteenth century-style panorama, through pieces of destroyed Israeli armor and aircraft and a curious iron engine labelled "Egypt's Secret Weapon" (actually, an hydraulic pump used to dissolve Israel's defensive sand dunes), Egyptian kids learn how their country's forces erected bridges across the Suez Canal and subdued enemy bunkers along the Bar Lev Line. With flags unfurling and bayonets fixed, they banished the occupiers, erased the stain of the 1967 debacle, and reclaimed sacred Sinai for Egypt. The rendition, if purplish, is true—but only to that point. Nowhere in the exhibit is it noted that the offensive was eventually blunted and beaten back to an enclave surrounded by Israeli forces that had spanned the Canal into Egypt. No mention is made that some 80,000 Egyptian soldiers nearly surrendered for lack of water or that Cairo came within Israel's striking range. And, of course, there's no hint that those soldiers and that city were saved by a last-minute application of American might and statecraft. Emerging from this arcade of glory, any child could rightly ask why, if Egypt had won such an unmitigated victory, did it succumb to such a humiliating peace?
The Egyptian exhibition also fails to note that at that same hour, two o'clock in the afternoon of October 6, tens of thousands of Syrian troops, spearheaded by divisions of Soviet-made tanks, punched through Israeli defenses on the Golan Heights. The reason for the omission is obvious: Egypt's need to claim that it defeated Israel's juggernaut alone. But the official Syrian version of the war similarly obscures Egypt's role just as it ignores all but the war's earliest stage. Though Syrian units swiftly succeeded in recapturing much of the Golan, they were almost as quickly stopped by numerically inferior Israeli forces and compelled to fall back on Damascus. The Syrian capital was also threatened by IDF guns which were ultimately silenced not by Arab arms but by Soviet threats and American pressure. Perhaps because, in contrast Egypt's foothold in Sinai, no part of the Golan remained in Syrian hands at the war's end, perhaps because of the army's failure to exploit the extraordinary advantages it initially gained, celebrations of "The War of Independence," as Damascus dubbed it, were relatively muted. Still, the annual parades of long-range missiles and other offensive hardware served to highlight the Syrians' steadfastness against the Zionist entity and to perpetuate the myth of their valor.
This was the view of the war in Egypt and Syria until its recent clouding by turmoil. The Egyptian victory belonged to the military dictatorship of Anwar Sadat, predecessor of Husni Mubarak and, now, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The success of an ostensibly secular nationalist regime could not fully be shared by the Muslim Brotherhood. The peace with Israel, though long reduced to mere non-belligerency, was not only injurious to Egyptian pride but theologically abhorrent to Islamists. The Syrian "independence" was claimed by Hafez al-Assad, the homicidal father of the even more murderous Bashar, both Baathists, both repugnant to the rebels. Little wonder that in both Egypt and Syria this year, October 6 was occasioned not by celebrating past battles against an external enemy but rather by the civil struggles for Egypt and Syria's future.
More paradoxically, perhaps, was the manner with which Israelis observed the forty years' mark. To be sure, each Yom Kippur yields an outpouring of public grief over the battlefield deaths of more than 2,500 Israeli soldiers—the equivalent, in current per capita terms, of 230,000 Americans—and the maiming of vastly more. The nation remained traumatized by the instantaneous transformation of the IDF from invincible machine to semi-functional family and all in a single day, Judaism's holiest. The iconic image of the Israeli paratroopers gazing dreamily before the Western Wall in 1967 collided with those of Israeli POWs in Syria and Egypt and of Prime Minister Golda Meir weeping before that same Wall. In response to that shock, a great many Israelis either turned toward or away from religion, pivoted right to the settler movement or leftward to Peace Now. Whether perceived as the result of the failure of Israeli leaders to launch a preemptive strike or their hubristic rejection of Egypt's peace offers, Israelis uniformly view the war as a type of punishment—in the term coined by former general and president Chaim Herzog, a War of Atonement.
This year, especially, Yom Kippur was a day of national paroxysm. The "generation of Sinai," recalling the biblical Children of Israel who roamed the desert for forty years cleansing themselves of the taint of slavery, still colors modern Israeli politics and intellectual life. The media and public discourse dealt with little else than the catastrophe of 1973, with the enduring torment, self-criticism, and loss. Yet here lies the paradox. Unlike Americans, who take pride in wars that began with surprise attacks such as those on Fort Sumter or Pearl Harbor but which concluded with brilliant victories, Israelis cannot celebrate what was arguably their most remarkable military feat. Indeed, cadets at the U.S. service academies study not the lightening success of the Six-Day War but Israel's astonishing ability to alter tactics overnight to meet new challenges—to put paratroopers in front of, rather than behind, armored units to neutralize advanced anti-tank missiles, to improvise the game-changing pincer movement across the Canal. Israelis seem unaware that the Six-Day War was also an intelligence failure—the IDF predicted that war was unlikely before 1970—and less than impressed that their soldiers' sacrifice, though agonizing, saved countless Israeli lives. Indeed, Israel's enemies also derived lessons from the war. They saw how, while enjoying total surprise and overwhelming advantages in men and materiel, Arab armies still could not prevail, could not even avert defeat. Despairing of destroying Israel by conventional means, its adversaries turned to terror and delegitimization, which have similarly failed. Egyptian and Syrian rulers meanwhile opted for quiet, if not peaceful, borders which facilitated the beating of a great many Israeli swords into ploughshares. This, in turn, helped the Jewish State to absorb a million refuges and modernize its economy.
The memories of the Yom Kippur epic have also impacted its other protagonists. Remembering the hours-long gas lines precipitated by the Arab oil boycott, Americans have ever since striven for energy independence from the Middle East. The U.S.-Israel strategic alliance, founded in 1967 but galvanized in 1973, has remained a multi-faceted mainstay of American foreign policy. But fewer Americans are willing to pursue the type of gunboat diplomacy that proved so decisive in 1973, to preserve the Persian Gulf primacy considered precious during the Kissingerian age, or to maintain the bonds forged with Egypt's military rulers—one of America's proudest achievements of the war. The Russians, on the other hand, are yearning to return to their role as Cold War players, as owners of a Mediterranean fleet capable of going eyeball-to-eyeball with America's. Though it signaled the end of the Soviets' Middle Eastern empire, 1973 remains the high watermark which Moscow still aspires to regain. The ghosts of the Yom Kippur War will no doubt continue to alter their shape and meaning according to shifts in international and Middle Eastern affairs. Unchanging, though, will be the debates they spur—that and their power to haunt us.
Remembering the Yom Kippur War, 40 Years On: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 13, 2013—On the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, remembering a tragedy that history will not forget.
40 Years Since the Yom Kippur War #1: The First Strike: IDF Blog, Oct. 7, 2013 —40 years ago, during Yom Kippur, Israel faced one of the biggest challenges of its history.
Three films to focus on Israeli Air Force: Jewish Journal, Feb. 27, 2013—Some 65 years after a band of foreign volunteers fought in the skies above Israel to assure the nation’s birth and survival, filmmakers are racing to bring their exploits to the screen before the last of the breed passes away.
Sample Reel for 'Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force' (Video): Playmount Productions, 2014
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