Blue Flag exercise: more than just an exercise in Israel

Blue Flag exercise: more than just an exercise in Israel

As of: 27.10.2021 1:19 PM.

After twelve days, the “Blue Flag” maneuvers in the Negev desert, which also involved the Air Force, will end tomorrow. An exercise on sensitive terrain – and with a multiple sign character.

By Suzanne Glass, ARD Studio Tel Aviv

German Eurofighter “Eagle Star” in the Israeli Negev desert, covered with a special foil that shows the flags of Israel and Germany: this photo of the international military exercise “Blue Flag” will and should remain. Because if the German Air Force participates in maneuvers in Israel, it cannot be judged only from a purely military point of view. Equally a problem is the magnitude of the Holocaust and the special responsibility it resulted. So the exercise ending after twelve days also became a demonstration of the special bond between Israel and Germany.

For Israel, this is the country’s largest and most sought-after multinational maneuvers to date. About 1,000 soldiers and 60 latest-generation fighters had gathered at Ovada Air Force Base near the city of Elliot. Apart from the Israeli hosts, NATO members the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Greece and Germany as well as the Indian Air Force were represented.

Exercises That Aren’t Possible in Germany

Israel’s airspace with its narrow borders and the topography in the Negev Desert differ significantly from European conditions. Therefore the “Blue Flag’ exercise provided a unique opportunity to practice procedures with other countries in an exceptional terrain and landscape that we cannot do in Germany in a way that we do in Germany”, explains Ingo Gerhartz, the inspector of the German Air Force. The German crew learned a lot, but at the same time contributed to helping other countries become better militarily.

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The fact that NATO members train here together with Israel and India, which use their own methods, has a mutual learning effect. Above all, however, and this is particularly important to General Gerhatz, “with our participation we gave a face to the political demand that the security of Israel is part of the cause of the state of Germany”.

A sentence first coined by Chancellor Angela Merkel in her 2008 speech to the Knesset. And which he reaffirmed during his farewell visit to Jerusalem in October, days before the start of international military exercises.

Joint Tour by Yad Vashem

The Air Force flew to Israel with 160 men and women and six Eurofighters. This is his third participation in a series of exercises held every two years at Ovda.

Gerhartz and the commander of the Israeli Air Force, Amikam Norkin, demonstrated a special bond early on: the generals visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem together. After the wreath-laying ceremony, Gerhartz declared: “Our responsibility will not end, our memories will not fade. I am deeply inspired to give you my promise: never again!”

And Norkin reminds that in the summer of 2020 Israeli fighter jets first arrived in Germany and the visit has acquired a historic dimension. “A year ago we stood together at Dachau,” recalled the Israeli general, “when we took off from the former concentration camp together”.

Joint Commemoration: In August 2020, Israel’s Defense Minister Ischaro and Federal Defense Minister Kramp-Karenbauer together visited the GZ Memorial Dachau.

Build: Picture Alliance/DPA

flying with symbolic character

Both states wanted to follow up with another spectacular action in Israel: Gerhatz flew side by side in a Eurofighter, notably with the flags of both countries, and Norkin in an F-15 aircraft over Jerusalem. – Parliament including the Knesset, Israel.

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When Gerhartz is back on solid ground after an hour-long flight, he talks about one of the most emotional moments of his military service. He also wanted to send a clear signal to Germany, he says: “Anti-Semitism has no place in Germany, no place in the Bundeswehr and no place in the Air Force.”

And he announced that the central lecture hall building in Apen would be named after the former Luftwaffe sergeant, Karl Labs. The Labs had saved over a hundred Polish Jews. He is honored in Yad Vashem as one of the few Germans “the righteous among the nations”.

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