Israel's Iron Dome Is Not a Full Solution

It is true – it saves lives, but it does not solve the basic problem: protection of the civilian population in the south ■ The only way to stop the launching of rockets is by physically eliminating that capability

The Iron Dome system in Sderot, Israel, August 11, 2018.
Ilan Assayag

The development by RAFAEL of the Iron Dome system for the interception of short-range rockets and some mortar rounds is a great technological achievement that was for many years considered to be beyond engineering capability. But it is not a cure-all for an attack of thousands of such rockets against civilian populations.

Some rockets get through, while others send residents of the south scurrying into bomb shelters. That is the end of normal life and can be achieved by the launching of a few hundred simple cheap rockets. The last few weeks have demonstrated this conclusively.

Also, the Iron Dome system can be saturated by the launching of a number of rockets at the same target, some of which get through. The bombardment overwhelms the interception system. It is not, as many wanted to envisage it, an impenetrable umbrella in the skies of the south, under which life can proceed as usual.

The tremendous difference in the cost of the simple rocket and the expensive system operated to intercept it also makes it financially unsustainable in the long run.

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It is true – it saves lives. It has been argued that the Iron Dome provides the government with the time needed to discuss a response to an initial attack. But it does not solve the basic problem: protection of the civilian population in the south.

All this should have been foreseen, and the decision to develop the Iron Dome system should have been accompanied by a decision to develop a laser interceptor which has many advantages over the Iron Dome system.

The Iron dome intercepts a rocket fired from Gaza, near Sderot, Israel, July 14, 2018.
Ilan Assayag

But there is no getting away from it: The only way to stop the launching of rockets against Israel’s civilian population is by physically eliminating that capability. That can be achieved only by troops on the ground – through the entry of the Israel Defense Forces into the launching areas and the destruction of the manufacturing and storage facilities. The belief that terrorist organizations pledged to destroy the state of Israel can be inveigled to abstain from attacking Israel has proven to be false and is not likely to be borne out in the long run.

Like the rest of the world, Israel cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip. While claiming to be fighting to improve the miserable fate of Gazans, the jihadist organizations ruling the Strip are deliberately perpetuating this misery by urging the population — including women and children — to approach the separation fence and set fire to Israeli targets across the border.

As long as these organizations continue to rule there, nothing will change. Most of the resources supplied to the area will be diverted to the building of attack tunnels and rockets to be used against Israel. Those who are truly seeking to improve the situation of the population in the Gaza Strip realize that Hamas and its jihadist allies will not be their partners. This is by now well understood in the international community, in Egypt and hopefully in Israel as well.

It is on such an understanding that the amelioration of the situation in Gaza has to be based — Israel, Egypt, and the international community working together. The IDF can provide the boots on the ground to give the initial impetus to the change that has to come for the benefit of the civilian population in the south and the Palestinian population suffering under jihadist rule.

Those who insist that there is no solution are just saying that the suffering must continue. They are wrong. There are enough resources — military and economic — to bring about a significant change for the better.