Hamas rockets, Gaza terror, and future Israeli defenses against Iran

Considered together with improved nuclear deterrence and cyber-defense, Israel's oft-tested shorter-range active defenses represent an indispensable component of the country's national security doctrine.

June 29, 2014 21:48

Iron Dome batteries on Gaza border March 13 2014. (photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)

Following the recent kidnapping of three Israeli teens, Iron Dome anti-missile defenses are back in action again, with recognizable and welcome success. The specific event linkages are clear. When Palestinian terrorists in Gaza began to step up attacks against Israel, the Iron Dome capably intercepted those rockets that had been fired toward the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council in the south. Looking ahead, the IDF initially deployed anti-missile units in the coastal region near Ashdod in mid-June, then correctly anticipating that renewed terror rocket attacks upon Israel would be unleashed from Gaza.

But Gaza is not Iran. Their respective tactical and strategic threats to Israel are very different, and so, too, are the country's required active defenses. Although a lower than 100% reliability of interception could be taken as more-or-less acceptable to Israel in the face of shorter-range and exclusively conventional rockets, a less-than-perfect level of reliability could not be tolerable following any nuclear missile attack from Iran. Such an attack is not yet technically possible, of course, but this current limitation on Iran's offensive military power is apt to change in the next several years.
For Israel, in the altogether plausible case of a future Iranian long-range rocket attack bearing nuclear warheads, not even a single incoming missile could be allowed to reach its target. Significantly, however, at least for the moment, no operational Israeli system of active defense could hope to assure such a total level of protection. This means that while the Iron Dome, Arrow, and still in development David's Sling (aka Magic Wand), can contribute mightily to Israel's assorted and intersecting security postures, any such contribution would still remain less than perfect. It is also clear that no system of Israeli missile defense could be of any protective service against enemy acts of nuclear terrorism that would employ non-missile delivery systems. In essence, this limitation references such foreseeable delivery systems as commercial trucks and container ships.


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