Iron Dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel as seen from the city of Ashkelon, Israel October 27, 2018. Picture taken with long exposure.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
With Hamas targeting the country’s center more frequently, Israel needs a radical shift in its missile defense strategy, former deputy head of IDF Military Intelligence Brig.-Gen. Meir Elran wrote in an Institute for National Security Studies post on Sunday.
According to the post, after making initial jumps forward in missile defense surrounding the 2012 and 2014 wars with Hamas, especially with Iron Dome, the defense ministry may have gotten complacent.
Elran wrote that ending the complacency is not merely critical to protect individually targeted Israeli communities, but also to giving the security cabinet the time and patience to make balanced decisions about war and peace.
In contrast, there is a concern that if Gazan rockets smash into cities and communities in the center of the country, decision-makers would be under populist pressures to act without properly weighing the long-term consequences.
Bar Ilan University and IDF Command College lecturer Dr. Carmit Padan – who specializes in organizational sociology and preparedness – co-wrote the INSS post with Elran.
Conceptually, in terms of tactics, the IDF and other arms of the nation’s home front defense have invested considerably to defend Israeli communities on the Gaza periphery, and critical Israeli cities and infrastructure, wrote Elran.
But that mentality only does well in a full-scale war and as long as Hamas is targeting those key spots, he suggested.
Recently, he noted, Gazan rocket crews have repeatedly launched long-range rockets, even in the absence of a general war.
When they have done so, the post says they have targeted communities in Israel’s center that do not appear to be viewed as critical enough to have an Iron Dome battery assigned to them.
Elran wrote that Israel needs more of these anti-ballistic batteries to protect vulnerable areas in the country’s center.
In addition, while praising the increase in early warning systems to compartmentalize the country into 250 separate regions, he said significant work needs to be done to move the country to the 1,800 regions it is meant to be divided into.
The former IDF deputy intelligence chief said priority must be given to placing early warning systems in areas in the country’s center which Hamas has been less likely to attack, short of a general war, until now.
The INSS post said these areas must also undergo civilian defense drills as take place in Gaza periphery communities, so that home front officials and ordinary citizens are trained to respond to such attacks.
Until these changes are made, Elran said that Hamas may use “surgical” attacks on ill-prepared communities in central Israel not protected by Iron Dome batteries in order to strike terror and chaos without Israel responding with a declaration of war.
More batteries and proper preparation of communities in the country’s vulnerable center could neutralize any strategic advantage Hamas has identified, and reduce the terrorist group’s incentive for this method of attack, he said.
Elran also said that the government should aggressively implement the recommendations of a May 2018 commission regarding the delineation of the defense roles of the various home front agencies, as well as local government authorities.
Along those lines, the INSS post endorsed the State Comptroller’s March 27 report about the lack of readiness of the country’s rescue teams.
Finally, Elran noted that challenges posed by Hamas rockets apply as well for any future conflict with Hezbollah, whose arsenal includes more precise and sophisticated missiles than those of Hamas.