by Yissachar Ruas/TPS
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday that the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier, currently anchored off the shore of Chaifa, is a sign of America’s’ commitment “to the free world, and added that that the United States’ wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan) represents a “fight against Islamic countries, in a war of good against evil.”
Netanyahu recalled the first time he visited an aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, during his first stint as premier in 1996, and marveled at the advances made on the current ship. “It is a floating island of America. It is a symbol of freedom and strength and victory,” Netanyahu said.
US Ambassador David Friedman, who accompanied Netanyahu, noted that Netanyahu was the first foreign leader to visit the ship, a fact he said served as evidence of the close ties between the two countries.
Netanyahu and Friedman toured the massive, 20-story ship and shook hands with several of the 6,000-man crew, decked in dress white uniforms. Commanding Officer Capt. Will Pennington told reporters that “the visit of the USS George H.W. Bush speaks to the enduring commitment to our shared interests and a commitment to fight against our common enemies,” and praised the detailed intelligence sharing between the United States and Israel.
The USS George H.W. Bush deployed to the region last January to participate in the fight against ISIS, and moved to the eastern Mediterranean in May in order to participate in combat off the Syrian coast. Carrier-based aircraft fly 20-25 sorties a day, and last month an F-18 based on the carrier shot down a Syrian Su-22, the first time an American pilot has downed an enemy aircraft since 1999.
Capt. James A. McCall, commander of Air Wing 8 and commander of all aircraft on board the carrier, told reporters that pilots have generally been given air-to-surface missions, and that US aircraft typically “close to within visual range [of Syrian planes]” and warn the Syrian plane not to attack US ground forces. Only after dropping bombs on Coalition forces on the ground do US pilots shoot the plane down.
Video: Israeli helicopter lands aboard the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier