Israel, U.S. Conducted Joint Exercise Simulating Escalation on Northern Border

The drill held by senior U.S. and IDF officers coordinated joint action plans for intelligence, air defense and logistical assistance — but did not include U.S. involvement in a conflict with Hezbollah

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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An Israeli helicopter participates in the 'Chariots of Fire' IDF exercise in May.
An Israeli helicopter participates in the 'Chariots of Fire' IDF exercise in May.Credit: IDF Spokesperson
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

Israel and the United States held a joint military exercise over the past week to assess the readiness of both countries to cope with security challenges, particularly a military escalation on Israel's northern front.

The scenarios were discussed in a meeting in Israel between senior officers in the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, and the Israel Defense Forces. The Americans and the Israelis coordinated joint action plans for intelligence, air defense and logistical assistance.

There was no discussion, however, of the possibility of active U.S. involvement in Israeli attacks on the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. While the United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, it will not take an active part in Israeli warfare against it.

In September, responsibility for military relations with Israel passed to CENTCOM from the U.S. European Command, or USEUCOM. Since then, ties between the two militaries have been greatly strengthened – the fact that CENTCOM's area of activity in the Middle East is geographically close to Israel contributed to these improvements. The commander of CENTCOM made a visit to Israel about a month ago.

The IDF did not hold a similar drill with USEUCOM for several years, focusing only on coordinating defensive systems instead. The main scenario for this week's drill involved an escalation in the north and its regional implications, including Iranian involvement alongside Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Each side presented its perspective on the possible events and the dilemmas it would face. The delegation also discussed emergency cooperation, in the event of an escalation. The U.S. military has large emergency depots in the country, from which Israel would be allowed to borrow equipment with U.S. consent in the event of war.

The U.S. delegation that arrived in Israel this week – which included more than 30 officers, including eight at the rank of general or admiral – was headed by the deputy commander of CENTCOM, Vice Admiral James Malloy. The host on behalf of the IDF was the head of the General Staff's Strategic Planning and Cooperation Directorate, Maj. Gen. Tal Kelman.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz told the Knesset this week that the United States has accelerated the process of implementing a regional air defense alliance that will include friendly Arab states alongside Israel. The U.S. administration may choose to make these steps public during President Joe Biden's visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia next month. The two delegations also talked about regional defense, in coordination with several Arab states, during their joint discussions.

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