|Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem|
Trapped under the Iron Dome
By ARIEL HARKHAM
Israel’s siege mentality represents a fundamental strategic failure.
This month, all of Israel was subjected to an unrelenting eight-day missile
blitz, disabusing middle Israel of the notion that there is any distinction
between the periphery and the center of Israel in its ongoing war with Hamas.
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, which featured prominently in the
conflict, is being hailed as a great success. In reality, however, it represents
a total failure of strategic vision and erodes the concept of deterrence for the
State of Israel. Now, the barometer of success is not Israel’s abilities to
deter rockets, but its ability to blow them out of the sky.
deployment of Iron Dome illustrates the entrenched political weakness engulfing
Israel today. On a tactical level, it cannot be denied that the Iron Dome
represents a revolution in modern warfare. Since the early 1990s, an estimated
$10 billion has been allocated to anti-missile programs, and at a cost of over
$50,000 per Iron Dome interceptor the cost will continue to rise. Already we
have some preliminary reports according to which in Operation Pillar of Defense,
the Iron Dome cost between $25m.- $30m. for 421 rockets shot down.
IDF now estimates that there are 200,000 rockets and missiles pointed at it by
Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. The long-term investment gives the Iron Dome
system more of a “golden dome” sheen. And though the Iron Dome may represent a
new layer of defense, it in no way brings Israel closer to destroying Hamas.
Herein lies the political weakness that the Iron Dome exposes.
technology employed and military imagery used by warring parties throughout
history have been indicative of the way they perceived themselves.
the Greeks it was the phalanx, while the Romans had the legion. For the Mongols
it was the horseman, for the British their frigate, for the US the bomb, for the
Palestinians the suicide belt. As of this November, Israel has the
What does the image of a system which does not confront the
enemy head-on say about Israel’s narrative? The Iron Dome does not paint a
pretty picture for a country that needs to thrive, not just survive.
symbolism of the Iron Dome further engrains a “siege mentality” narrative among
Israelis. Israel’s military, academic and cultural celebration of a so-called
“strategic” weapon system that neither neutralizes its threats nor expands its
geo-political position ensures Israel will face more conflicts and hardships. It
is only through the use of offensive vehicles that the enemy can be destroyed or
THIS SIEGE mentality extends to how Israel interprets and
employs its resources, as we have seen in Israel’s latest engagements with Hamas
and Hezbollah. The Iron Dome system is also indicative of how Israel approaches
the moral dilemma it faces with regard to the use of force. The last offensive
military program Israel sought to develop was the failed Lavi fighter jet
program during the 1980s.
Since then, Israel has not invested in any
major strategic military platforms other than anti-missile defenses.
reluctance to pursue offensive military capabilities is an ominous sign for a
country surrounded by hostile elements which requires an exceptional fighting
force unimpeded by international pressure. Instead of tools designed to achieve
victory, Israel uses its resources to ensure survival.
This leads to the
pathetic situation in which a siege in our backyards and playgrounds is
preferred over assaulting the attackers preemptively in their own territory
given international considerations and political expedience.
better tools requires revaluation by the toolmaker. In order to make instruments
of war that will incite fear in and wreak havoc against Hamas and Hezbollah, the
Israeli public must confront crucial decisions regarding their nation’s future.
Possessing the right military posture requires narrative and cultural vigor,
which promotes initiative and rewards risk taking.
Israel must also
address the complicity of a Palestinian family, which, though maybe not
supportive of Hamas, allows them to launch rockets from their home, schools,
hospitals and mosques. Breaking the siege mentality means creating realistic and
just rules of engagement for fighting an enemy that is embedded within a
civilian population. Israel needs a cogent policy regarding proportionality,
which does not render it toothless when hundreds of rockets are falling on
civilian centers from civilian centers.
These are difficult and wrenching
decisions, but crucial if Israel wants more than mere survival.
the siege mentality requires that Israel reassert its sovereignty in what is
clearly a just war with Hamas. To do this, the cost of inaction or passive
defense must be understood on a cultural level to be far worse than confronting
facile accusations of “disproportionate response.”
Israel must show
Palestinians that if they pursue a path of aggression through active or tacit
support, Israeli public opinion will force its politicians’ hands. Only this
Israeli mentality will support military initiatives to neutralize enemies rather
than to purely defend against them. Begin a rethink of the stale
military-political calculations that only serve to tie Israel hands, return to
defense industry building home-grown instruments of power projection that can
dominate the enemy, rather than US-funded anti-weapons that only manage the
The writer is co-founder of the Jewish National Initiative.