Many hundreds of rockets have been fired into Israel in the past several days. Over the course of more than a decade, thousands and thousands of warheads have fallen in populated areas and agricultural land in Israel - Qassams, Grads, mortar shells, and now also Iranian-made Fajr missiles. In the past, high-trajectory weapons fire embittered the lives of Israelis on the Jordanian and Lebanese borders.
Engineers and weapons development specialists at Israel's military industries proposed the development years ago of rocket interception systems. The idea was not an original one. American Patriot missiles offered some protection to Israel, albeit with minimal success, from Iraqi Scuds during the Gulf War of 1991. And the Israeli Arrow missile was developed and produced in the two subsequent decades. The Israel Defense Forces also had missiles to counteract missiles directed at naval vessels.
It was possible to improvise a temporary solution to intercept some of the rockets, while at the same time investing in a more comprehensive response. But the defense establishment preferred to allocate funds to other operations, without understanding the effects that counteracting the rockets would have on the sense of well-being of the population and its influence on the ability to hold back from launching offensive operations, or at least limiting them.
It was only after the Second Lebanon War in summer 2006, when Israelis sustained thousands of rockets from Hezbollah in Lebanon that the Israeli government came to the realization that it was worth acting quickly and developing short-range and medium-range interceptor systems - Iron Dome against short-range rockets and Magic Wand against medium-range projectiles. Development was completed in record time, and with outstanding if not perfect results. Some rockets still get through the defenses and in effect there is no defense against mortar shells.
But the bragging over the performance of Iron Dome, a system that has spared large numbers from injury from the Negev to the Tel Aviv area, is not a substitute for policy that Israelis should be thinking about. One cannot indulge in the delusion that a way has been found to maintain the diplomatic stalemate at a bearable price.
Israel has long sobered up from delusions that the situation in the Middle East could be altered by force. A new regional order will be attained only through a balance of interests, either explicit or implied, between the sides. Iron Dome needs to make it possible for the creative minds under its protection to find the proper formula, and it must by no means be inferior to what the weapons developers accomplished, in part with funding from here and in part reflecting dependence on American aid.
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