In the Shadow of Ilan Ramon, an Israeli Astronaut Prepares for Launch

After having distinguished himself as an IDF fighter pilot, Eytan Stibbe trained to be an astronaut, and is now preparing to take off tomorrow on the first-ever private mission to the international space station. Yonatan Meroz speaks with him about the experience:

Stibbe and three other astronauts will take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which will be launched via the company’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle. On the menu are dozens of scientific experiments that will be carried out on behalf of a large number of organizations. (Stibbe is scheduled to carry out 35). The launch date is currently set for April 6, and Axiom Space, the American company behind the mission, together with the Israel Space Agency, the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Ramon Foundation, will be crossing their fingers that there won’t be any further delays.

The long shadow of the Columbia shuttle disaster, in which Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon along with six other crew members lost their lives, has hung over the mission throughout. Even the nineteen years that have passed since cannot dispel it.

“Ahead of the launch, I trained in the places that I visited with Ilan,” said Stibbe, who was a friend of Ramon’s and served alongside him for many years. “He took me around and showed me the shuttle and the simulators. It’s a very sentimental issue for me. I will take with me into space some of the pages of Ilan’s diary that survived the disaster, and a painting by his daughter Noa. I hope that the next two weeks change the sentiment in Israel that connects manned space flight and tragedy.”

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Ilan Ramon, Israeli technology, Space exploration

Israel’s Retaliation against the Houthis Sends a Message to the U.S., and to Its Arab Allies

The drone that struck a Tel Aviv high-rise on Thursday night is believed to have traveled over 2,000 kilometers, flying from Yemen over Egypt and then above the Mediterranean before veering eastward toward the Israeli coast. Since October, the Houthis have launched over 200 drones at Israel. Nor is this the first attempt to strike Tel Aviv, only the first successful one. Noah Rothman observes that the Houthis’ persistent attacks on Israel and on international shipping are largely the result of the U.S.-led coalition’s anemic response:

Had the Biden administration taken a more proactive and vigorous approach to neutralizing the Houthis’ capabilities, Israel would not be obliged to expand to Yemen the theater of operations in the war Hamas inaugurated on October 7. The prospects of a regional war grow larger by the day, not because Israel cannot “take the win,” as President Biden reportedly told Benjamin Netanyahu following a full-scale direct Iranian attack on the Jewish state, but because hostile foreign actors are killing its citizens. Jerusalem is obliged to defend them and the sovereignty of Israel’s borders.

Biden’s hesitancy was fueled by his apprehension over the prospect of a “wider war” in the Middle East. But his hesitancy is what is going to give him the war he so cravenly sought to avoid.

In this context, the nature of the Israeli response is significant: rather than follow the American strategy of striking isolated weapons depots and the like, IDF jets struck the port city of Hodeida—the sort of major target the U.S. has shied away from. The mission was likely the furthest-ever carried out by the Israel Air Force, hitting a site 200 kilometers further from Israel than Tehran. Yoel Guzansky and Ilan Zalayat comment:

The message that Israel sent was intended to reach the moderate Arab countries, the West, and especially the United States. . . . The message to the coalition countries is that “the containment” had failed and the Houthis must be hit harder. The Hodeida port is the lifeline of the Houthi economy and continued damage to it will make it extremely difficult for this economy, which is also facing significant American sanctions.

Read more at National Review

More about: Houthis, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy