TEL AVIV (Dec. 12)
The Israel Defense Force and the U.S. Embassy here have declined to comment on reports that the Israeli and U.S. navies are engaged in a joint anti-submarine exercise in the eastern Mediterranean.
An IDF spokesman said that “in principle, the IDF does not report on movements and exercises.” The only previous instance of U.S.-Israel military cooperation, which occurred last June, was the practice evacuation by American helicopters of 46 “wounded” marines from a U.S. Navy vessel in Haifa to hospitals in Haifa and Tel Aviv.
At that time, Washington reportedly expressed displeasure over the extensive Israeli press coverage of the exercise which also tested communications between the U.S. Sixth Fleet and Israeli authorities and the capabilities of Israeli air traffic control.
Sources here said U.S.- Israeli military cooperation has been kept secret. But foreign press reports from Washington today quoted a Defense Department official as confirming that the joint anti-submarine exercise began yesterday.
According to the reports, Michael Burch, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, said the maneuvers involved a task force accompanying the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower which earlier had called at Haifa.
Burch said the joint anti-submarine exercises began yesterday. He said the exercise was a small one and would last “a few days” and that the Eisenhower was not directly involved except as a base for aircraft used in the practice submarine hunt. One unidentified Pentagon official reportedly said that the Eisenhower was sent to the Mediterranean in October as a show of force in response to terrorist activities.