The Israeli Navy Enters a New Era

Yesterday, the IDF tested an upgraded version of its fabled Iron Dome anti-missile system, including units that will soon be installed on its new Sa’ar 6 warships, the first of which arrived in Haifa in December. The new vessels, combined with the adoption of the Iron Dome to be used against maritime threats, represents a major step forward for Israel’s naval strategy. Yaakov Lappin explains why such a change is necessary:

Israel’s dependence on the sea has never been greater, and is set to expand even further in coming years. The Tamar offshore [natural-gas] rigs are located west of Gaza in Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), while the Leviathan [rig] is off the Haifa coastline. The Karish and Tanin gas fields are located north of Leviathan in the Mediterranean Sea. The rigs deliver liquefied natural gas to the coast, where they are converted to electricity in power stations. Some 70 percent of Israel’s electric consumption is now based on natural gas.

Around half of Israel’s fresh water comes from the Mediterranean Sea via five desalination plants, with two more expected to come online in the next few years. The vast majority of Israel’s imports also arrive via the sea. [In short], the sea remains Israel’s longest border and its chief electricity source, water supply, and means of bringing goods into the country.

In 2013, Jerusalem ordered the navy to revamp its strategic concepts in order to keep up with its growing importance; the newly added technology is part of that new strategy, but so is a new focus on sea-to-land combat. Lappin writes:

[T]he 2006 Second Lebanon War made clear that it was time for the navy to update its doctrine. When [an Israeli] frigate was hit by a Hizballah shore-to-sea missile, the navy saw that things had changed. The arms race that flooded the region with precision-guided missiles and new types of rockets meant Israeli targets both on land and at sea faced a new level of exposure.

Hamas, for its part, is heavily investing in its naval commando assets—an investment that includes the construction of underwater tunnels used by Hamas scuba attackers.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Hamas, IDF, Iron Dome, Israeli Security, Natural Gas, Naval strategy

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security