Monday, June 3, 2019

52 years later: Israel and the superpowers - Dr. Gabi Avital

by Dr. Gabi Avital

Over 50 years after the Six-Day War, Russia and the United States are convening a joint security summit in Israel, while Arab states have come to terms with the fact that we cannot be defeated through war or even by a protracted terror campaign.

52 years later: Israel and the superpowers
PM Netanyahu with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Red Square in Moscow [Archive] | Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

The welcome news that Russia decided to forego its sale of S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria reminds many of newspaper headlines from 52 years ago, which incidentally also appeared around the festive Shavuot holiday. The main photograph in the Maariv daily was of an SM-2 surface-to-air missile, captured during the Six-Day War. The particularly long missile was dubbed “a flying electric pole,” which accelerates at great speeds toward its high-altitude target. This missile, together with its more advanced models – the SA-3 and SA-6 – downed a large number of Israeli planes throughout the War of Attrition and Yom Kippur War.

Many years have passed, and the balance of power between Israel and its neighbors has shifted considerably: Israel now has complete air superiority and the risk of losing aircraft is negligible. While there is no room for complacency, the current reality is utterly different. The air force and other military branches are developing anti-missile and radar systems, which greatly reduce the potency of the Russian-made SA-300.

The latest news illustrates that Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of 50 years ago, nor is it the Russia of the previous decade. The willingness to convene a joint security summit in Israel (not a “peace summit”), with senior American counterparts, enhances Israel’s standing.

Two days before the outbreak of the Six-Day War, France was still an ally of Israel. However, then-French President Charles de Gaulle chose to impose an embargo that effectively quashed the sale of French planes and weapons to Israel and mainly spare parts for equipment. This crisis gave birth to Israel’s independent development of weapons systems, including the Merkava tank, and the Nesher and Kfir fighter jets. This, essentially, was the backdrop for the tremendous growth spurt of Israel’s defense industry. The Soviet Union, for its part, continued arming Arab countries without restraint.

Amid the backdrop of the current diplomatic developments – the strengthening of Israel-U.S. ties; the special relationship between Israel and Russia; recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which was captured in the Six-Day War; the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and other achievements – I recall the words of then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who said: “We’re happy where we now stand.”

And here we stand today, more than 50 years later; Arab states have come to terms with the fact that we cannot be defeated in war or even through a protracted campaign of terror. Israel’s cooperation with a significant number of Arab countries in the struggle against Iran, the world’s leading exporter of terror for 40 years now, their rapprochement with Israel and the Israeli government’s steadfast adherence to the fundamental principles of its existence, illuminate the path for a better future for Israel and its neighbors.

Dr. Gabi Avital


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