Perhaps the greatest perversity of the current Gaza conflict is that Israel’s much vaunted rocket protection system, known as “Iron Dome,” could, on an historical basis, have done more harm than good to the Jewish State.
Interestingly, when the project was first proposed, there were many in the Israel defense establishment who opposed it on ideological grounds. Although the official name of Israel’s military is the Israel DEFENSE Force (IDF), the reality has always been that Israel’s only way to defend itself effectively was to take the initiative and go on the attack.
The opposition feared that the better the system worked, the less incentive there would be for the IDF to think aggressively.
And that is exactly what has happened!
Of course, all Israeli Prime Ministers are faced with a terrible dilemma. They have to evaluate every action with an eye to the relationship between the necessity for the action, and the number of soldiers likely to be killed or injured as a result.
Although it is an oft repeated cliché, Jews DO value life above almost anything else, unlike those they have to fight. The Israeli public will only tolerate a limited number of military deaths before protesting.
So, for as long as Iron Dome is able to provide such a high level of protection, the incentive to mount a massive ground offensive against Hamas is simply not there.
Had Iron Dome not existed, Israel would have had no alternative to a massive mobilization of ground troops and a full invasion of Gaza. The reason is simple: Hamas has fired over 3,700 rockets into Israel over the past few weeks. The first few hundred would have resulted in the death and injury of many civilians.
While that might have satisfied Israel’s many critics in the world — some of whom appear to regard the casualty numbers like a score in a football match which Israel is winning or losing depending on your viewpoint — it would have given Israel no choice but to attempt to eliminate Hamas, its operatives, weapons, rockets, tunnels, and all the other infrastructure of their war machine.
Because of Iron Dome, Israel hasn’t done this, ensuring that Hamas can survive to fight another day. The famous Israeli historian, Benny Morris, writes in The Los Angeles Times:
“If there were footage of shattered buildings in Tel Aviv, and the dead and dying lying in the streets of the coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, few around the world would condemn Israel for a massive air and ground assault against a palpably murderous Hamas, with the aim of destroying it. Over the months needed to pacify and demilitarized Gaza, no doubt protests would emerge. But the protests would have been less strident than they are today. Israel would weather the international indignation far better; Israel would be better understood.”
“If there had been a massive IDF ground invasion, within two or three months Gaza’s towns and villages would have been cleared, house by house, of Hamas fighters. Hamas, and its fellow organizations, would have been destroyed as a military and political force. Israel would have been relieved, for a decade or two, of the need to worry about a southern front.”
Instead of which, Israel is still on the receiving end of around 100 rockets every day from Gaza. Justifiably, there are many in Israel who supported the decisions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the beginning of the conflict, but who now question what was the war all about.
The declared intention was to stop the rockets. That has self-evidently not succeeded. The destruction of the tunnels though which Hamas was planning a massive infiltration into Israel, whilst useful, doesn’t address the longer term issue of how to rid the world of Hamas.
Had Iron Dome not existed, possibly, by now, neither would Hamas!