Only weeks after unprecedented rocket barrages pounded Ashkelon and the western Negev, a Knesset committee meeting to discuss progress on the Iron Dome rocket protection system was canceled Monday when key invited participants all failed to attend. MK Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP) called for the meeting of the Defense Subcommittee of the Knesset's State Control Committee to discuss State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's report on rocket defense. The first meeting held by the subcommittee to discuss the report was held in May 2007, and was attended by - among others - then-assistant Defense Minister Efraim Sneh. But when Orlev called for a follow-up meeting for Monday morning, the tenor changed. On Sunday, Orlev said, key invitees including Assistant Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i and Defense Ministry Director-General Pinchas Buhris asked to be excused from attending the discussion on the project, which is set to be completed in 2010. Orlev, however, said that he insisted that the key invitees attend despite their other engagements due to the importance of the discussion. When he arrived at the meeting to discover that - in his words - "only the low-ranking officers" were present, Orlev announced that the meeting would be postponed to a later date, most likely before Pessah and that he expected the invitees to attend. "I see this as a central plan to protect civilians," said Orlev, "and the fact that the invitees chose not to attend has an air of disrespect for human life and a lack of interest in the subject." The meeting came on the heels of growing criticism by former senior defense officials that the Iron Dome will not be effective in protecting Sderot due to the short distance and flight time between the Negev town and the rocket launch sites in Gaza. In February, a special ministerial committee led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approved a budget of NIS 350 million for the fortification of 3,600 homes within a range of 4.5 kilometers from the Gaza Strip. The range of 4.5 km. was decided due to the limitations of the planned Iron Dome system, a limitation that some defense officials have denied exists.