Iron Dome Is a Tactical Treasure but Strategic Danger

How many more rockets can be intercepted until one slips past and sows death and devastation? Then there will be a ground incursion.

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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Iron Dome battery at work in Ashdod. July 14, 2014.
Iron Dome battery at work in Ashdod. July 14, 2014.Credit: AFP
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

The siren sounded as I was writing this article yesterday (in Tel Aviv). I remained calm. After all, Tel Aviv is well-defended from rockets. If army headquarters, or the city’s inhabitants, are harmed, God forbid, the flight will begin, the state will rage and Prof. Dan Miron, the esteemed Israeli literary critic, now at New York’s Columbia University will write in Haaretz, as he did in 1991: “If the army exists, let it appear immediately.” A frightened and upset Benjamin Netanyahu will be compelled to order the chief of staff: “Go, go, over.” So who deserves thanks, and who deserves blessing (for the fact that this order has not been issued yet)? Iron Dome.

That being the case, bravo, Amir Peretz! Bravo to the Americans, too, who (partially) funded the wonder-shield that for the past several days has prevented direct hits on civilians and soldiers, airports and nuclear reactors. That dome deserves doubled and redoubled gratitude for the fact that our ground troops are still lurking on Gaza’s doorstep instead of fighting and being hurt in the Strip.

In a security view that aspires to in-depth solutions, Iron Dome is a tactical defensive treasure that allows the country’s leaders to deal thoroughly — as the home front is relatively protected — with the rocket terrorism, which is Israel’s main enemy today (and tomorrow). But the prime minister, who avoided grabbing the bull by its horns, sees Iron Dome — which, despite its accomplishments, is an addictive drug that delays a decisive victory — as a strategic weapon. This is like someone with a serious illness taking narcotic painkillers instead of having the major surgery that might cure him.

How many more rockets can be intercepted until one slips past and sows death and devastation? Then there will be a ground incursion — at a galloping pace, yes? If that does not happen in the current round, it will happen in the next, when they have faster and more destructive rockets. And we — what will we do? We will keep on with our defensive conception. Iron Dome has already proved itself in the “important” areas of the country, hasn’t it?

In a day, or maybe two, Hamas will accept the cease-fire — on its own terms, to judge from past experience. Shortly afterward, also from experience, rockets will begin trickling into Gaza-area communities. Civilians will be injured, while others — unlike the residents of Tel Aviv and the island of Ben-Gurion International Airport, where the cease-fire gives them an exemption from rockets until the next general round — continue to run to the protected spaces. A constant situation of terror, frustration and helplessness. Chronic disruption of life in the south is not a pretext for a ground incursion. This security-political-psychological situation — but not the moral one — is allowed to continue because the state is wearing — thank God — an Iron Dome.

In deep existential terms, we have internalized a twisted and immoral system of inhibitions. Its main point: “It is not Jewish” that Jews should take forceful measures that will ensure true calm for them, as any nation free of such inhibitions would do in a similar situation. Let anyone who denies that stand up and explain how we reached a situation, after all the years of fighting Hamas, in which the entire country runs for cover; why no government has ordered the army to put an end (yes, an end), even now, after the fact, when “the world is on our side,” to a situation where the enemy fires lethal rockets that sow death and destruction at us whenever the spirit moves him. After all, the means exist.

Yes — in addition to its excellent qualities, Iron Dome also erodes the senses and the willpower of the ground forces, with their abundant power, equipment and skill. If not for the defense that Iron Dome provides, the ground forces would not continue to crouch down, as they have for the past two weeks, between two sheepfolds, two burdens, they too stationary targets on the rockets’ endless firing range.

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