Iron Dome’s worth

Despite the prohibitive costs, Iron Dome is worth the expense.

Iron Dome 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iron Dome 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Iron Dome rocket-defense system has proved to be a major game-changer in the most recent round of conflict with Islamist terror organizations operating in Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Since it was first deployed in March 2011, Iron Dome’s interception success rate has significantly improved from about 75 percent to 90 percent.
During the current round of fighting, the three anti-rocket batteries – positioned in Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod – have successfully knocked out of the sky well over 40 rockets which, according to computations made of their trajectory by Iron Dome’s computer brain, were headed for populated areas.
If one of these rockets had, God forbid, killed innocent Israeli civilians – as intended by Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committee terrorists – Israel’s politicians would be under tremendous public pressure to launch a major military offensive into Gaza Strip as was the case in the months that led up to Operation Cast Lead, the 22-day military incursion into Gaza Strip that began in December 2008 and ended in January 2009.
But recognition of Iron Dome’s merits was not always taken for granted. Former IDF Southern Command head Dan Harel admitted Sunday on Army Radio that he had originally opposed investing in the development of Iron Dome when the idea was first proposed at the beginning of 2007, although he has since changed his mind. He felt it would be a waste of money. And he was not alone.
Other leading defense officials and IDF commanders were skeptical about Iron Dome. MK Amir Peretz (Labor), who served as defense minister at the time Iron Dome was first proposed, should be praised for having the foresight to recognize the rocket-defense system’s potential.
But some have wondered whether the hefty cost of operating Iron Dome – which has been offset by a $205 million grant provided by the Obama administration in 2011 – is worth it.
Each Tamir missile fired by Iron Dome at a Kassam or Grad rocket costs about $50,000 and usually two are fired at a time. Assuming more than 40 Tamirs have been fired to intercept rockets fired from Gaza, operating Iron Dome during the recent round of conflict has cost at least $4m., and this does not include development costs. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said that as effective as Iron Dome is, it is unrealistic to think that Israel could fund the purchase of enough batteries to provide cover for all parts of Israel.
Still, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is pushing to increase the number of batteries from three to 13.
Despite the prohibitive costs, Iron Dome is worth the expense.
First, it saves lives, which is priceless. In Jewish tradition anyone who saves a single life is seen as saving an entire world. Also, the economic damage caused by Kassam and Grad rockets that hit houses, schools or businesses can easily amount to millions of dollars.
What’s more, Iron Dome significantly improves Israel’s deterrence. Knowing that the vast majority of rockets targeting population centers will be shot down, Palestinian terrorists are under pressure to fire more of them. But in order to fire Kassam and Grad rockets, terrorists must temporarily come out in the open where they are exposed to fire from Israeli helicopters and planes.
Assuming that the building of a single Kassam rocket costs about $800, and assuming that Gaza’s economy is significantly less developed than Israel’s, increasing the number of rockets fired from Gaza could quickly become very expensive, relatively speaking, for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committee and other terrorist groups. And Iron Dome shoots down only rockets which are slated to hit a populated area or strategic target. These rockets accounted for just a quarter of those fired at Israel during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Finally, Israel will be able to profit from Iron Dome, which has proved itself in combat situations, by selling it to other countries. NATO, South Korea, India and the US have all shown interest.
Turning a weakness into a strength is an old Jewish trait. In this context, Iron Dome is an eminently Jewish response to Palestinian aggression.