The A-Z of Israel
On 22 January, Israelis will go to the polls. The world watches – but how much do we really know about the country that calls itself “the sole bastion of democracy” in the Middle East?
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
X is for X-band radar
On Mount Keren, in the Negev Desert, US sol diers watch over a portable radar capable of scanning 1,000 miles into Iranian airspace for signs of a missile launch. The “X-band radar array”, which emits so much radiation that technicians have to wear protective suits, is operated exclusively by US personnel and points north-east, in the direction of Tehran.
When the system was first deployed in 2008, a Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said: “This is and will remain a US radar system.” More than four years later, despite tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme (see N for Nuclear weapons), Israel still has no direct access to data collected by the radar and gets intelligence on a need-to-know basis only. The importance of the system lies in this imbalance of information between the allies. On several occasions, Binyamin Netanyahu has suggested that Israel is ready to attack Iran without US approval. Yet such a strike would strain Israel’s relationship with the US, its principal protector, and attract counterattacks from Iran and its allies. Without the strategic advantage of the radar, Netanyahu would be risking countless Israeli lives unnecessarily.
Despite all the sabre-rattling, this scen ario is unlikely to emerge. The X-band radar does not only monitor Iranian airspace – it monitors all activity at Israeli bases, too. So the chances that the US will be caught off-guard by an Israeli attack on Tehran are remote.