On Monday, with a commemorative tree-planting and ceremonial ribbon-cutting, Israeli and US officials inaugurated the ‘first permanent American military base’ at the IDF’s Air Defense School, not far from a US military radar installation in the Negev Desert. American and Israeli flags flew side by side as high-ranking military officers and soldiers from both countries participated at the opening ceremony.
In his speech, Maj. Gen. John Gronski, deputy commander of US Army National Guard in Europe, said “The United States and Israel have long planned together, exercised together and trained together. And now, with the opening of this site, these crucial interactions will happen every day.” (US military forces are routinely based in Israel, for joint exercises, cooperation with the IDF, and to operate some US facilities in the country.)
Brig .Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, head of the IAF’s Aerial Defense Command, told reporters: “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.” He lauded the opening of the facility for allowing “us to improve our defense, in discovery and in interception and in preparedness,” saying the permanent presence of a US facility on Israeli soil sends a “message to the region and our surroundings that our partnership with our friend the United States is important.”
However, despite the solemn and celebratory talk at the opening ceremony on Monday, things came down with a bump on Tuesday when the American military contradicted the claim made by the Israel Defense Forces that the United States had established its first base in Israel.
“The new buildings on the existing Israeli Air Force Base are not a US military base,” said Meghan Henderson, deputy director of EUCOM’s Media Operations Division. “The buildings will function as a living facility for US service members, who are currently working at the Israeli base.” An Israeli army official confirmed that the Americans had contacted the IDF and requested the change in terminology. The message was passed along, and all mentions on its website of a “US military base” were quickly changed to read “US military facility.”
‘Base’, it seems, is an inappropriate word because it carries with it a number of legal distinctions and can only be applied to facilities of a certain size.
Of course, the word ‘base’ has many different meanings totally unrelated to army camps. The adjective means ‘immoral’ or ‘not having moral principles or rules.’ Ironically it seems sum up the governments of both Israel and the US.