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Israeli Military Cooperation with Jordan & Egypt Hints at Deepening Ties

An American official revealed that the Israeli Air Force trained closely with Jordanian fighter pilots during a multinational military exercise hosted by the United States this past summer, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The official’s comments were prompted by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon confirmation that Israel participated in the “Red Flag” exercises alongside Arab pilots. The drills, which took place a couple of months before Israel assisted Egyptian security forces in locating a crashed Russian passenger jet in the Sinai Peninsula, underscore the increasing military cooperation between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors.

Israeli fighter pilots recently trained with Arab counterparts in the United States, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday, referring to a joint exercise that a U.S. official described as involving Jordanian planes.

The remarks by Yaalon followed Israel’s disclosure that its air force helped locate a Russian passenger plane that crashed in the Egyptian Sinai on Saturday – both rare departures from a policy of keeping Israeli-Arab military cooperation under wraps. […]

Mentioning Israel’s participation in “Red Flag”, a U.S.-hosted air force exercise in July, Yaalon said: “There were Arab pilots there too, and pilots from the various branches of the United States military and other countries.”

He did not elaborate. But a U.S. official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said Jordan took part in Red Flag, sending warplanes that flew out with Israel’s jets and refueled from an Israeli tanker over the Atlantic Ocean.

According to Reuters, Ya’alon also indicated that Israel was working with countries that were threatened by Iran and its allies, namely Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah.

The Times of Israel pointed out that Israel and Jordan share many security concerns, “including over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the threat posed by Islamic State.” This past July, reports surfaced that Israel donated around 16 Cobra combat helicopters to Jordan in an effort to help the country defend its borders from regional insurgents.

Ya’alon’s remarks come shortly after the conclusion of the Blue Flag military exercises, which were the largest ever hosted by Israel and included the air forces of Poland, Greece, and the United States. The exercises were monitored by military officials from 34 countries, including Austria, Britain, Canada, and France.

[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]