Barak: Interception capabilities rising

But defense minister tells Knesset committee that in future, Israel will need "much higher" capability.

By DAN IZENBERG, EHUD ZION WALDOKS
October 9, 2007 12:18
3 minute read.
iran shihab test, awesome 224 ap

iran shihab test, awesom. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
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Israel will have a shield that will protect it from "about 90 percent of Shihab to Kassam rocket attacks within a few years," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset State Control Committee on Tuesday. Barak appeared before the committee along with Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and former Defense Minister Amir Peretz. The meeting was one of a series devoted to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's highly critical report of the government's record in preparing the home front for war before and during the Second Lebanon War. "We will implement the report," Barak promised the committee. "Furthermore, we are giving high priority to the production of a system involving several projects, which, within a few years, will provide protection for Israel from about 90 percent of all attempts to fire rockets at us, from Shihab missiles to Kassams," the defense minister said. "In the longer range, we will have, for many reasons, to achieve a much higher interception level." The air force has confirmed that the Iron Dome system, which utilizes a kinetic interceptor to knock down Kassams, will be ready in just a few years. That system will become the base layer of a four-tier overlapping system. The second tier is comprised of Patriot missile batteries, which are already in place, while the third tier is the vaunted Arrow system. The fourth tier, the Arrow 2, is currently under development. The goal of the developers is to design a system which could target cruise missiles even farther out than the Arrow system does now. The air force is considering upgrading its Patriot missile batteries to the Pac 3. None of the systems will be able to stop mortar shells as they are too small and their flight time too short to be intercepted. Barak has reportedly also reopened the debate regarding the Skyguard missile defense system. Skyguard uses lasers rather than a kinetic interceptor to target short range missiles. During the meeting, Peretz, who served as defense minister during the war, took issue with the conclusions of the Lindenstrauss report, which found that the government had been hasty in going to war and should first have examined the readiness of the home front. "I don't think anyone is authorized to say that the decision of the government to go to war was hasty," said Peretz. "It is absolutely clear that the act of going to war was the right thing to do. It was a response to a series of actions including the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit and a civilian in the West Bank." Peretz went on to defend his support of the war until he was interrupted by committee chairman Zevulun Orlev. He then got into a shouting match with Aryeh Eldad (NU/NRP). Ashkenazi told the committee, "It was good that the state comptroller published the facts during the investigation. It is very important to implement the remedies quickly and vigorously. In addition to the original goals for which the Home Front Command was established, it will help any local authority that runs into difficulties." The chief-of-staff added that if a new threat should arise of the scale of the 2006 war, the government should declare an emergency situation (which it did not do in 2006) and mobilize all the home front forces." Ashkenazi also said that the missile threat to the home front was not going to disappear anytime soon. On Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seemed to blame Barak for the continued barrages from Gaza. He told the Kadima faction meeting that he was "waiting for the defense minister's proposal on stopping Kassams." When asked to comment Tuesday, the defense minister's office chose not to respond. However, sources close to Barak said: "The minister does not deal with such wrangling but acts according to the dictates of security needs and national responsibility." Orlev ended the meeting by declaring himself reassured that the government was putting a lot more effort into securing the home front. "We are reassured that the security establishment has a plan which puts the protection of the home front in a different place. These things still need to withstand the test of implementation, and I am happy that they have begun rectifying the deficiencies instead of wrangling."

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