Israeli Air Force commander: Defending our skies getting more complicated all the time

Echoing the chief of staff’s recent statements, Gen. Norkin says the missile threat from Iranian proxies is a real and present danger.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Speaking to the newest graduates of an air-defense course Wednesday, Israel’s air force commander said it’s steadily getting harder to defend Israel’s skies.

“While we’re talking, the Arrow, Patriot, David’s Sling and Iron Dome [air defense] batteries are on standby,” said Gen. Amiram Norkin at the graduation ceremony of 35 men and women who will soon be operating those systems, which protect Israel from short-, medium- and long-range missiles.

“The challenge of defense is becoming more complex. The missile and rocket threat is now being joined by offensive drones and cruise missiles. The level of defense will be determined by the fighter on the outer perimeter,” he added, referring to the young soldiers he was addressing. “I rely on you, and know that we can overcome every challenge.”

Norkin’s open acknowledgment of the kinds of threats Israel faces backs up last week’s comments made by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi that Iranian proxies, especially on the northern border, are Israel’s “central challenge” due to their efforts to acquire precision-guided missiles.

Kochavi’s words were the opening public salvo in his efforts to get an increase of the defense budget out of a caretaker government for the IDF’s newest five-year plan. A major portion of that money is being requested in order to buy more drones and precision-guided missiles to counteract those of Israel’s enemies.

In this, Kochavi is in full agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has raised the specter of the Iranian threat often in recent weeks, to the region in general as well as specifically to Israel.

In a press conference with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday, Netanyahu warned that besides the ever-present danger of a nuclear Iran, the Islamic Republic is sponsoring a new and more immediate airborne threat, this time from Yemen. He said that Iran has begun bringing precision-guided missiles to its Houthi allies there, with which they intend to hit Israel.

Mnuchin, for his part, stuck to the American administration’s policy that maximum economic pressure would stop Iranian aggression in the Middle East and promised that additional tough sanctions were on their way.