The first much lauded iron dome battery was deployed on the 27th March 2011, and successfully intercepted its first BM-21 grad rocket, launched from Gaza, on the 7th April 2011. The Iron dome cost the Israeli government billions of dollars in research and development, with a further $1.3 billion dollars funded by the U.S government. Each Iron dome battery costs $100 Million to manufacture and deploy, with each Tamir missile that the iron dome fires costing $50,00 each
Five iron dome batteries were deployed to counter the rocket based terror threat from Gaza during Operation Pillar of defence, intercepting of 400 rockets at a success rate of 90%. Many observers rushed to declare the iron dome un unparalleled success, a game changer, and a wonder of Israeli ingenuity and a technological marvel that would eventually herald the end of the rocket threat from Gaza.
Eight years after its initial deployment, after countless skirmishes with Gaza based terrorist and With the latest round of fighting still fresh in our minds, the question must be asked: Has the iron dome lived up to the hype surrounding it, or is it just a billion dollar dud?
While the iron dome has undoubtably been successful in saving many lives, it is not without its limitations, which have been ruthlessly exploited by our enemies. First of all despite the 90% success rate, the iron dome has failed to intercept many rockets which have managed to slip through the net, and land in populated areas causing much damage and chaos. The iron dome is also less effective when faced with a large barrage of rockets and can be overwhelmed.
There is a further element of the rocket based terror attacks which the iron dome cannot prevent, which is the disruption too everyday life, and the trauma caused to lives of Israeli citizens based in the south of the country. To day many Israeli citizens living in the shadow of Gaza have been traumatised by the ordeal having to run for their lives whenever they hear the air raid sirens signalling yet another round of rockets from Gaza. Even The Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to flee during a recent campaign speech in the run up to the general elections. Today an entire generation of young Israelis who have grown up with having their lives shattered by these rockets are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
The limitations of the iron dome system have further been exploited in recent years, after arab terrorist groups launched a wave of helium balloons carrying crude but effective incendiary devices into Israel. The iron dome was rendered totally impotent by a child’s toy, which caused millions of Shekels of damage to farmland.
Finally, the economic aspect of the iron dome must be taken into consideration. As mentioned above each Tamir costs $50,000 dollars. Two Tamir missiles are launched to intercept each rocket fired from Gaza which is deemed a threat to civilians. And with each rocket costing on average $1000 to manufacture, this can certainly be seen a asymmetric warfare from an economic perspective. And while no price can be placed on each life that is saved by the iron dome, it should be noted that in the case of the iron dome, it costs far more to save a life than it costs a terrorist from Gaza to take one.
The Iron dome has been partially successful in saving lives, it cannot be seen a the solution to the rocket threat. It shows a fundemaental lack of understanding of the arab terrorist mentality, and represents a critical failure to deal with the root causes of the conflict. While undoubtably ingenious from a technical perspective, the iron dome is a reflection of the failed and bankrupt policy of withdrawal, containment and disengagement of Israel’s leaders with respect to the arabs. The root causes of the problem are a endemic and virulent form of antisemitism which is ubiquitous throughout arab society and the Gaza strip in particular.
The iron dome can at best be seen as an analgesic, just a a person may take a paracetamol to elevate the symptoms of a headache. While the pain may me elevated for a while, after a short time the headache will only return and sometimes the pain will be far worse.
In order to deal with the root causes of the conflict, Israel must be prepared to reverse the disastrous Gaza disengagement, the brainchild of the late Ariel Sharon and which must now be seen a his legacy. Sharon only succeeded in creating a terrorist micro state within a stones throw of many of Israel’s major population centres, giving them a free hand to act with impunity. Even as I write this blog and the freshly brokered cease fired takes hold, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are rearming and preparing for the next round of conflict and replenishing their stockpile of 10,000 rockets.
Only by reoccupying Gaza and uprooting these nefarious elements from society once and for all, can there be any hope of a meaningful and enduring peace being returned to the south of the country.