This time I was happy to be proven wrong. I had underestimated the capabilities of the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system, and the engineers at Rafael deserve high praise for its success.
But it would still be a mistake to subscribe to the national euphoria that has developed around the system without looking at its limitations and their ramifications. Yes, we should be pleased; we should also be proud and grateful. The crowing, however, is a little exaggerated.
We have to remember that if the security establishment's assessments about an all-out war include the firing of thousands of missiles a day at the home front, some of them in multi-rocket barrages, the rate of successful interceptions will go down significantly.
More to the point, if we are targeted by thousands of missiles a day, Iron Dome would quickly become irrelevant. Because of the high cost of the Tamir missiles the system uses, the Israel Defense Forces couldn't possibly equip itself with enough to meet the expected threat (Hezbollah has more than 60,000 missiles in its possession and Hamas still has several thousand. ) The risk is that in the event of all-out war, the Iron Dome system will have a hard time coping with continuous missile attacks over time, and the home front will once again be left totally vulnerable.
Moreover, the rockets that evaded the Iron Dome and landed in Rishon Lezion, Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi show us that even when the interception rate is high, there's always a chance that some rockets will get through, whether due to a system malfunction or simply due to its limitations. One can only imagine the result if the rocket that hit the Ashkelon school had done so when school was in session.
And with all the euphoria, we cannot ignore another important issue: Iron Dome provides no protection to the communities closest to Gaza. We tend to forget that the primary reason for developing the Iron Dome system was to protect Sderot. But even after it became clear that the system could do nothing for the Gaza envelope region because the rockets from Gaza reach there too quickly, there was, and continues to be, a sophisticated campaign of disregard and misinformation. The public is convinced that Iron Dome protects Sderot, and the security establishment isn't bothering to correct this impression.
If that was all that senior defense officials, in particular the people at the Defense Ministry's Weapons Research and Development Directorate were doing, that would be one thing. But as soon as the fighting in Gaza began, there was an orchestrated and dirty campaign against those who supported bringing in the Skyguard laser defense system.
Such supporters were portrayed not just as enemies of the state, but greedy con men. Rumors were spread about the financial interests they had in purchasing the system, and they were accused of asking the American government to cut its defense grants. Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, meanwhile, claimed that "someone" had told him that if he, Peretz, would merely bring the laser up for discussion, that this "someone" could earn at least a million dollars. My request to Peretz is that he reveal who this "someone" is so that we can denounce him.
I have no idea if this laser system can really protect Sderot, even though test results attributed to the system seem to indicate it can. But the stubborn refusal of the Defense Ministry's R&D people to agree to even bring in one system for testing is strange. It's not clear what they have to lose.
If the Skyguard doesn't work, they'll be proven correct and can continue to slander those who support it. Meanwhile, the Iron Dome festival is continuing, even though the Gaza envelope communities had no protection during Operation Pillar of Defense, and still don't.