Israel and the Iroquois Nation came together this week -- In Israel -- at the Lacrosse World Championship. The Iroquois Nation team was subjected to enormous pressure to boycott, but they steadfastly refused to be swayed. The Iroquois, who invented Lacrosse in about 1100 CE, know a thing or two about indigenous peoples reclaiming their land. And they know a thing or two about Israel. Bravo to them.
There are those who insist that Israel is "isolated," that it lacks friends and allies. Israel's place in the larger world, however -- except, perhaps, in the halls of the UN -- is expanding, not only with the Iroquois Nation, but with the nations of the world that want to know what Israel knows and have what Israel has, whether they have formal diplomatic relations with Jerusalem or not.
The Iroquois Nation lacrosse team faces off against the Canadian team in Israel, July 16, 2018. (Image source: Lacrosse Analytics video screenshot)
Israel's expansive sharing of water, solar and agricultural technology is legendary, as is Israel's emergency rapid response team. But military cooperation underpins freedom of navigation in the air and on the seas – the source of international prosperity through trade – and secures people in their borders. Security makes everything else possible, and Israel is in the center of the universe of security cooperation.
Late last year, Israel hosted the largest aerial training exercise in its history – Blue Flag in the Negev Desert. There were 70 aircraft from around the world, hundreds of pilots, and air-support team members. Participants included the United States, France, Italy, Greece, Poland, Germany and India. It was the first time French, German and Indian contingents trained in Israel.
A Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG) is a force made up of vessels from various allied countries. In December, Britain's HMS Ocean, the flagship of the SNMG2, docked in Haifa to take part in several joint exercises with the Israel Navy and Air Force. "We are here today as a friend of Israel and a visible demonstration of NATO 's continued commitment to Israel," said Commodore James Morley. "Whilst we are here, we will engage with the Israel Navy leaders in order to create and build opportunities for us to work together. Israel is one of our closest partners and we are moving steadily closer together."
In March 2018, Israel joined in the exercise "Iniohos" in Greece. "Iniohos" is an annual exercise replicating a multi-threat environment for the air forces involved, in this case, the U.S., the United Arab Emirates, Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom and Cyprus.
The UAE? It wasn't a first. In the 2016 Red Flag exercise in the United States, Israel's partners were the UAE and Pakistan. Even Pakistan.
For the 2018 Red Flag exercise in April, Israel declined to bring its F-15 fighter jets, citing regional tension, but sent pilots and other personnel.
Juniper Cobra, the largest joint U.S.-Israeli air-defense exercise – and the largest joint exercise with the U.S. military's European Command – took place in Israel in March, with 2,000 IDF air-defense troops, 1,400 Marines and 1,100 American sailors. The USS Iwo Jima and USS Mount Whitney were there, as well as the Patriot missile-defense system, Aegis ballistic missile-defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, TPY-2 radar, communication systems, 25 aircraft, and more.
In June, Israeli paratroopers took part in their first combined European ground exercise not held in Israel when they trained with Swift Response in Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Thousands of soldiers from countries including Great Britain, the U.S., Spain, Italy, Poland and Portugal participated in airborne exercises; personnel and equipment drops; air-assault operations; force buildups; and civilian evacuation operations. "The objective of the exercise is to improve the ability for mutual cooperation between the participating armies," noted an IDF statement.
Saber Strike, also in June, was led by the U.S. Army's European Command with 18,000 fighters from 19 countries, including Poland, Germany, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. An annual drill beginning this year in Latvia, Saber Strike focused on "training and drilling NATO's enhanced forward presence, focusing on promoting interoperability and improving joint operational capability in a variety of land missions," according to an Army source.
From late June to early August, Israel is a participant in RIMPAC -- the Rim of the Pacific. RIMPAC includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom -- minus China, which was not invited, and Taiwan, which should have been.
This month, as the Helicopter Carrier Dixmude docked in Haifa, French Ambassador to Israel Helene Le Gal noted that 11 French ships have docked in Israel this year – more than those of any other country's navy. "I am proud that the Dixmude is in Haifa. It demonstrates the quality of the cooperation between our countries and that there exists a strong amount of trust," she said. "We have practiced joint drills in the past and we will continue to do so in the future."
The Iroquois Nation, as another indigenous people, is a friend of the heart. In the larger picture, however, Israel is an integral part of the world's security system across the continents, from Europe to Asia to North America. In the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, it has partnered with countries alphabetized from Australia to Vietnam in exercises on land, at sea or in the air. Not a single country pulled out of a single exercise because of the presence of the Israel Defense Forces.
Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center.