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entries tagged with: Syria


Rothman meeting examines U.S.-Israeli missile defense

When Rep. Steve Rothman met late last month with the head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, the two discussed state-of-the-art defense programs that will protect the Jewish state from regional threats while providing the United States with access to superior technology.

Rothman (D-9) sits on the powerful House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, which allocates all funding for U.S. military and joint U.S.-Israel defense projects. The Feb. 23 meeting with Arieh Herzog focused specifically on three missile defense programs: David’s Sling, a short-range ballistic missile defense system; the Aarow 2, an anti-tactical ballistic missile system; and the Arrow 3, an upper-tier system capable of stopping longer range missiles. (See With Murtha gone, what are ramifications for Israel?)

“The joint projects I discussed with director Herzog — and have discussed with the highest level of military and intelligence personnel at the highest level of the U.S. government — will not only provide Israel with superior missile defense systems but will also provide the United States with access to that technology at every stage of development for use by American forces and other American allies,” Rothman told The Jewish Standard earlier this week.

David’s Sling, which Rothman said has almost completed full testing, is designed to protect against Kassam rockets from Gaza and Katyushas from Lebanon. Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and the American defense contractor Raytheon are jointly developing the system. The first live-fire test of the system is expected sometime this year.

Asked about Israel’s Iron Dome system, which the Jewish state developed on its own to protect against Kassam rockets, Rothman said it provides a larger defense radius than David’s Sling, but both would contribute to “Israel’s defensive umbrella.”

The Arrow 2 system is already operational. It is designed to protect against lethal short- to medium-range ballistic missiles, such as those currently located in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

The Arrow 3 system is designed to intercept a future Iranian or other long-range missile that achieves its range by leaving Earth’s atmosphere. Unlike the Arrow 2 warhead, which can explode without directly hitting its target, the Arrow 3 needs to directly strike the offensive missile. This, Rothman said, makes the Arrow 3 a less expensive system than its predecessor since it requires fewer explosives and thus has a smaller payload to carry.

“One of the benefits of the Arrow 3 is it will be cheaper to make and more can be acquired in Israel’s and America’s defensive arsenal for less money, yet [they will] get the job done,” Rothman said.

Israel and the United States have worked on the Arrow project since the late 1980s, and Israel deployed the first Arrow battery in October 2000. The system is a project of Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing. Developers hope the Arrow 3 will be operational sometime between 2012 and 2014, Rothman said.

Rothman and Herzog discussed “every potential threat to Israel’s security, including the Iranian threat,” Rothman said, without going into further detail. The meeting was not a response to any specific threat, Rothman noted, but rather was part of a regular series of meetings he holds with the IMDO.

Israel advocates have criticized President Obama’s policies toward Israel, specifically regarding pressure on the Jewish state to make concessions in the Palestinian peace process. Rothman, however, said that military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries has never been higher than under Obama.


Mother of longtime MIA remains hopeful

Rina Hever has no doubt that her son Guy — an Israeli soldier missing for 13 years —will come home.

Last seen on the Golan Heights in August 1997, Guy, then 20 years old, literally disappeared without a trace.

“The Israeli government said that his case is unique,” Guy’s mother told The Jewish Standard. “Usually the security forces can find some clue about what happened. But here, nothing has been found. Not a single item of his was found despite all the searches, not even his key chain or his dog tag.”

Ultimately, the government concluded that he was kidnapped by Syria.

As a result, his mother — in Fair Lawn this week staying with her brother, Avi Weissbard — has spent the past 13 years meeting with “all relevant people who have some connection with Syria.”

Guy Hever, 13 years ago, before his disappearance.

In November, she traveled to Geneva to speak with an official from the Red Cross. She has also been to Paris, Turkey, Germany, and, this past week, to Washington. In addition, she met with officials at the United Nations in New York.

“I had eight meetings in one day,” she said of her visit to Washington. “If I had more time here, I could do much more.” She added that after returning to Israel, she will plan another trip to the United States.

Supported by officials from Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Hever met with “high-level members of Congress who are most likely to be involved in discussions with Syria.”

“I received great support,” she said, noting that two years ago former president Jimmy Carter gave Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a picture of her son.

“It’s always the same answer from Syria,” she said. “They’re aware of the story; they have never denied the existence of Guy. But they say ‘Leave it alone. We don’t want to speak about it.’”

Hever said that she has met several times with Edward Djerejian, a former U.S. ambassador to both Syria and Israel. “He told us that the Syrian president knows Guy’s case well, but is not prepared to give any information.”

Still, she added, “It’s a humanitarian case, not political. I am hoping that someone with good will” will step forward and help. “The solution of this case would be good for the relationship between Israel, the U.S., and Syria,” she said. “I believe from the bottom of my heart that the U.S. has the experience and ability” to do something. She is particularly hopeful that with a new administration in Washington, some progress might now be made.

Hever does not doubt that her son is still alive.

“I’m certain about it,” she said. “History teaches us that the Syrians can keep people for years. But under certain pressure they act. You never know what kind of pressure will be the right pressure.”

Together with close friends and members of her family, Hever has tried to keep her son’s cause in the public eye. She admits, however, that “we don’t know how to make a campaign.”

“The blood of my son is not less red” than that of the other MIAs, she said, noting that some other families are able to be more vocal and more visible. “It’s not in our nature, our character.”

Guy, she said, had an avid interest in computers, enjoyed music, and read science fiction. Her 24-year-old twins — Shir, now studying to be a nurse, and Or, who was interviewed for this newspaper in 2005, when he came to this area to raise awareness about his brother’s plight — haven’t seen him since they were 12.

But, she added, “They are hopeful that they’ll see their brother again.”

The family lives in Kochav Yair, near Kfar Saba. Together with close friends and family members, Hever has done what she can, speaking regularly with Israeli government officials, traveling around the world to meet with potential contacts, and maintaining a Website,

“We have to act and to move the Israeli public,” she said, noting that 10 years ago, in a meeting with her husband Eitan, then (and current) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “promised to look for Guy.”

Media attention, she said, has been fickle. In 2007, an organization called Resistance Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights claimed through a posting on the Internet that it had Guy and wanted to exchange him for Syrian prisoners in Israel — the first hint in 10 years that Guy was, in fact, in Syria. But after an initial flurry of press coverage, said Hever, the story once again faded from the public view.

“I wish we knew what could be done,” she said. “We’ll try any channel. Maybe someone connected in some way with Syria will read this story and be able to help.”


The U.S. is committed to Israel’s security, preventing Iranian nukes

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