The success of the Iron Dome rocket defense system in the fighting in southern Israel last week should end for once and for all discussions about whether it is worthwhile. All doubt has been removed: this is a defense system that saves lives and its continued development must be granted the special status of a national project.
The defense system must raise the required funding so that many batteries can be acquired to intercept mass firings of rockets. Any attempt to tighten belts, in this of all areas, and save money, will be paid for in blood.
Over the years, military experts and prime ministers have told the Israeli public that there is simply no effective way to stop the katyusha missiles fired on the north, and over the past decade they have repeated the slogan regarding the kassam rockets in the south. Suddenly it appears that there is a way of stopping the rockets and missiles.
This breakthrough solution provides "blue and white" defense of the highest reliability, and the fact that it is expensive is of no interest to the residents of Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheva. Defense, we have been for many years, costs a lot. So please, in the absence of an appropriate military or political solution to this threat - honor the State of Israel and pay the bill.
Almost 60 grad rockets fired from the Gaza Strip last week were destroyed in the air using the Iron Dome system. These rockets were bound for Israeli targets and might have fallen on residential neighborhoods, busy road junctions, shopping centers, and crowded streets in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheva, Kiryat Malachi and Netivot. A rocket attack on this scale, without an effective solution, would have forced the IDF to mobilize the reserves and embark on a broad-scale operation in Gaza. But for Iron Dome, we might already be in the midst of Operation Cast Lead II with armored carriers tracking around Gaza trying to capture launching positions. This is something that the IDF has done frequently in the past in order to stop heavy rocket fire only to have to retreat under international pressure, and to claim that there is no absolute solution to the threat which is a kind of fatalism.
In the absence of a suitable operational response the Minister of Defense can and must do one thing: to instruct his director general to immediately contact Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and order more Iron Dome batteries, which can then be swiftly deployed along the country's borders. At least ten such batteries are required, while there is currently a budget for just three. These faceless bureaucrats must also be told to stop their spin about freezing Iron Dome because of the arguments they love to carry out via the media with Ministry of Finance budgetary division officials. Sometimes, it is important to say that's enough of that!
It would seem that Iron Dome provided protection not only for Israel's southern cities but also saved itself from the cynical officials sitting in the glass towers in Tel Aviv's Ministry of Defense and IDF headquarters. After its complete success, who will have the nerve to threaten freezing or even cancelling the rocket defense system, which is now mandatory for the defense of one million citizens in the south. No "hero" will agree to be guilty of bringing demonstrators from the south to protest the absence of Iron Dome batteries. The message that must be clearly heard in the Kirya defense headquarters is that there must be no more threats to stop funding Iron Dome, just as the Minister of Energy and Water Resources knows that if they were to threaten to cut off water to the country tomorrow then he will be thrown out of his job.
In the coming days, it will be exactly one year since Iron Dome intercepted its first rocket. Since then, including the latest round of fighting, Iron Dome has intercepted almost 100 grad and kassam rockets, otherwise destined to land in city centers. It can only be guessed what might have happened to the morale of Israel's southern residents, if these rockets had hit people and property.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 18, 2012
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