The Trump administration this week became the first American presidency to open a military installation in Israel when it broke ground a new, permanent building on one of Israel’s air bases Monday, Defense Newsreported.
The installation, which will house dozens of troops and missile and rocket defense equipment, will be located at the Israel Defense Forces Air Defense School near the southern city of Beersheba.
While there is some controversy over whether the installation constitutes a “base” — evidence of just how thorny of a political issue U.S. military involvement in Israel is — it will be the first permanent military installation in the Jewish state operating under the American flag. The United States has operated an independent radar facility in Israel’s Negev desert for over a decade without Israeli involvement, however.
“We established an American base in the State of Israel, in the Israel Defense Forces, for the first time, with an American flag. A permanent base,” Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, head of the Isreaeli Air Force’s Aerial Defense Command, said Monday after a groundbreaking ceremony.
“A few dozens of soldiers of our American allies will be stationed here permanently. They are part of an American task force that will be stationed here,” he added.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Gronski, leader of the American delegation at the groundbreaking, said that the Site 883 Life Support Area “signifies the strong bond” between the United States and Israel.
“This life support area represents the first ever stationing of a U.S. Army unit on Israeli soil,” Gronski said. “The U.S. and Israel have long planned together, exercised together, trained together. And now, with the opening of this site, these crucial interactions will occur every day. We’ll have Israeli airmen, U.S. soldiers living and working side by side.”
However, in a statement, the United States European Command stressed that while Israel was calling the facility at Beersheba a “base,” the U.S. military wasn’t necessarily willing to take that step.
“As part of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel, on September 18, senior leaders from the U.S. military participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony… to commemorate the opening of a new building on an Israeli Air Force base,” said Meghan Henderson, deputy director of EUCOM’s Media Operations Division, according to the Times of Israel.
“The new buildings located on the Israeli installation are not a U.S. military base,” she added. “The buildings are facilities on the existing Israeli Air Force Base to support our U.S. service personnel who are working there.”
Either way, it’s a major step forward for the relationship between the United States and Israel — and a sign that President Trump is fulfilling his promises to support Israel, and sticking by the country in a way no other president has dared.