According to Barak Ravid’s report Wednesday night, citing two US and Israeli officials, Director-General of Israel’s Defense Ministry Amir Eshel recently rejected a Biden administration request to permit Germany to supply Ukraine with Spike anti-tank missiles which are produced under an Israeli license (Scoop: Israel rejects U.S. request to approve missile transfer to Ukraine).
The Spike is an Israeli fire-and-forget anti-tank guided and anti-personnel missile currently in its fourth generation. It was developed and designed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and is available for your convenience in man-portable, vehicle-launched, and helicopter-launched variants.
If you are a Ukrainian military commander facing an invading Russian force with thousands of tanks, you’re going to want lots of Spike missiles. Some variants of the Spike are even capable of “fire, observe and update,” meaning you can lock on your target after launching. Your guy can decide if he still wants to hit his original target or switch to a different target, depending on the evolving situation on the battlefield, while the missile is climbing to altitude after the launch.
Eshel was in Washington two weeks ago for talks with Pentagon officials on security cooperation with the US, our greatest ally, you know the spiel. Undersecretary of defense for policy Colin Kahl asked Eshel if Israel would give its permission to Germany, which produces the Israeli Spikes, to transfer some of them to Ukraine so the embattled Ukrainians could take down lots of Russian tanks with ease.
Eshel apparently came prepared and rejected the request. He told Kahl Israel only supplies Ukraine with nonlethal military equipment. Last week, Israel sent 2,000 helmets and 500 protective vests to Ukraine, nothing you can kill Russians with from a great distance.
Earlier this month, a Russian air-defense battery stationed in Syria fired missiles at Israeli jets attacking a Syrian plant manufacturing weapons earmarked for Hezbollah. According to Eyal Zisser (Israel, Syria, Russia and the Shifting Sands of the Middle East), it was the first time since Russian military forces arrived in Syria seven years ago that a missile was launched at Israeli aircraft. It was not an accident but literally a warning shot, meant to show that if you poke the bear, the bear could poke back. Zisser cited Israeli officials who said “Russia could punish Israel for its position on the war in Ukraine by restricting and perhaps even negating Israel’s freedom of action in Syrian airspace.”
Ravid believes Eshel impressed the Americans with his argument, presumably reminding them that Israel is not thousands of miles away from Russia, it is, in fact, on Russia’s border, and there are many bears north of that border.
We know Eshel convinced the Americans to leave Israel alone on the Spike request, because, according to Israeli officials leaking to Ravid, when Defense Minister Benny Gantz last week met with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, the missile supply didn’t come up at all.