Headlines generated by the invasion of our national overhead space by an
unidentified drone last week – significantly on the October 6 anniversary of the
launching of the 1973 Yom Kippur War – quickly gave way to the hullabaloo
created by the calling of early elections. The entire drone episode soon
disappeared from public discourse.
But it shouldn’t have. True, no lives
were lost as on the horrific Night of the Gliders on November 25, 1987, when two
hang gliders flew low toward the Lebanese border and the terrorist on one of
them surprised troops near Kiryat Shmona, killing eight and wounding
The latest unmanned aerial vehicle carried no weapons systems and
wasn’t laden with explosives that could have turned it into a suicide-drone.
Nevertheless, this was a powerful warning that such flying objects could descend
upon us in waves at times of escalated conflict.
For this reason alone
this was no incidental footnote as with various other flying objects that have
infiltrated our skies, from a hot-air balloon that came perilously close to the
Dimona nuclear facility to an assortment of much smaller UAVs, which mostly
resembled amateur remote-control contraptions more than they did the large and
sophisticated drone that crossed into Israel just above the border with the Gaza
Herein lies the difference, even if the drone did no physical harm
and might not have succeeded in transmitting any sensitive aerial shots (not
that the latter are so difficult to obtain these days with the proliferation on
the Internet of satellite views).
The UAV that most recently overflew the
Negev was of a different caliber. It was scientifically and technologically more
complicated, and larger than previous uninvited airborne visitors. It was
something that only a state could build, as distinct from terrorist outfits
(even if the latter are charged as its caretakers and commissioned
The decision to send such a drone down the coasts of Lebanon
and Israel (its presumed path) and then have it cross overland into southern
Israel is not the whim of a local terrorist cell chieftain. It is a major
provocation and a blatant violation of Israel’s sovereignty, even if the drone’s
mission was only to gather intelligence and/or test Israel’s defenses. Espionage
is a form of aggression too.
This is a mission with extremely sensitive
ramifications and hence one that is unlikely to have been undertaken without
state sponsorship, and at the highest echelons of that state. The operative
assumption in Israel is that this was an Iranian initiative, even if Hezbollah
functioned in this instance as Tehran’s subcontractor.
We in this country
may accord unwavering credence to the Israel Air Force’s assertion that the
drone was under its surveillance long before it trespassed into our jurisdiction
and that it was allowed nearly 20 minutes of Negev air time so the IAF could
observe its capabilities before it was finally hit a mere 30 kilometers from
Indeed, reliable indications are that the air force was alerted
to the drone while it was still over water and before it came near Gaza. It may
well be that those at the control headquarters in Iran and Lebanon know that
they failed to surprise and penetrate undetected.
But that is not how the
incident is played for public consumption in Tehran and Beirut and this is not
Even if it is based on utter falsehoods, this seeming
breach of our security dents Israel’s deterrence in the eyes of precisely those
populations that Israel aims to deter. If the Iranians’ objective (and that of
Iran’s Hezbollah proxies) was to achieve a propaganda feat and claim to have
humiliated Israel, then they succeeded from their point of view.
not something we can afford to smugly scoff at. This is escalation, and Israeli
silence could be misconstrued as weakness and vulnerability.
This is not
to say that we should go on the immediate offensive with all guns blazing. But
it is imperative that Israel let its increasingly brazen and confrontational
enemies know – whether via public pronouncements by our higher-ups or via more
discreet messaging – that this manifest taunt is viewed here as throwing down
the gauntlet and that it will not go unanswered.
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