U.S. to Store Another $400m Worth of Emergency Military Equipment in Israel

Equipment to stand at Israel's disposal in an emergency; hike will bring the value of American military equipment stockpiled in Israel to $1.2 billion by 2012.

The U.S. government is to move an additional $400 million worth of military equipment to emergency storage in Israel over the next two years.

The equipment, which includes so-called smart bombs, will stand at Israel's disposal in an emergency.

The U.S. Congress approved the hike last month, which will bring the value of American military equipment stockpiled in Israel to $1.2 billion by 2012. The story was first reported this week by Defense News magazine's reporter in Israel, Barbara Opall-Rome.

The U.S. stores equipment in Israel by virtue of a special clause in U.S. foreign aid law governing war reserves stockpiles for allies. According to the clause, the equipment can be utilized by American forces throughout the world, and also, in an emergency, by the military in the country where the equipment is stored.

The clause was originally intended to allow South Korea use of American equipment in case of a surprise attack by North Korea.

The type of equipment stockpiled in Israel is determined through dialogue between the Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. Army's European Command. The issue was raised in discussions last week during the visit by the IDF's logistics and technology chief, Maj. Gen. Dan Biton, at the Pentagon in Washington.

The agreement between the two armed forces also includes conditions under which the IDF may use the equipment. It is believed that a great deal of the equipment will include precision weapons launched from the air.

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said this week that in Israel's future wars, much more precise weaponry will be needed to strike urban targets from the air without injuring civilians.

During Operation Cast Lead, 81 percent of the missiles and bombs launched from the air on and by IDF artillery were of the precision type.

Use of the the American equipment is allowed with permission of the American administration; Israel used such U.S. weaponry during the Second Lebanon War.

The first time equipment was stockpiled in Israel was in 1990, when a ceiling of $100 million in value was set, which was raised to $300 million during the first Gulf War and later raised to $400 million. It was doubled in 2007 after the Second Lebanon War, and, as noted, will reach $1.2 billion by 2012.

It is assumed in Israel that the U.S. administration asked Congress to increase the value of U.S. emergency equipment to signal its continued commitment to Israel's security. It is also believed the increase is meant to as an indication to Israel that it will not need to mount a surprise attack on Iran's nuclear facilities and that it can take risks for peace.

Israel is also expected to be allowed more involvement in selecting the types of equipment and weapons to be stored here and greater freedom to use it in an emergency. The equipment is stored in special bases for emergency supplies that are under American supervision.

Ben-Gurion International Airport and a base in Nevatim are expected to stockpile U.S. equipment arriving by air during both war and peacetime.

The agreement on the additional stockpiling is part of the very significant upgrading in security relations between Israel and the United States, which also involved an increased number of joint exercises with the United States, during which joint command over complex operations were also drilled. The upgrading of relations in the security realm also involved the special allocation of $500 million to finance the purchase of an Iron Dome battery, and the signing two months ago of an agreement to supply the IAF with the first squadron of the future F-35 fighter aircraft.