By Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel

For the first time in history, the United States on Monday established an official, permanent military base in Israel: an air defense base in the heart of the Negev desert.

Dozens of US Air Force soldiers will call home the new base, located inside the Israeli Air Force’s Mashabim Air Base, west of the towns of Dimona and Yerucham.

Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, head of the IAF’s Aerial Defense Command, announced the establishment of the installation on Monday evening.

“It’s nothing short of historic,” he said. It demonstrates the “years-old alliance between the United States and the State of Israel.”

The Israeli brigadier general also told reporters the establishment of a permanent US base in Israel “allows us to improve our defense, in discovery and in interception and in preparedness.”

According to Haimovitch, the new air base, along with other recent improvements to Israel’s air defense program, “will improve our abilities significantly. It won’t get us to 100 percent, but it will get us much closer to achieving important things during war.”

He said that the importance of air defense was made clear during the 2014 Gaza war, when thousands of rockets were fired at Israel, as well as through “assessments of the threats we expect to face in the future.”

Haimovitch insisted that the timing of the base opening wasn’t tied to any specific current event and noted that the process of establishing it had been in the works for some two years.

However, he said, the permanent presence of a US base on Israeli soil sends a “message to the region and our surroundings that our partnership with our friend the United States is important.”

The “base within a base” will be run by the US military’s European Command (EUCOM). It includes barracks, offices and support services.

In his speech, Maj. Gen. John Gronski, deputy commander of US Army National Guard in Europe, said the base “symbolizes the strong bond that exists between the United States and Israel.”

It is located not far from a US military radar installation east of Dimona that tracks ballistic missiles once they are launched and provides details on their flight paths to defense systems.

Read more: https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-first-us-establishes-permanent-military-base-in-israel/