Turkey's foreign minister Ahmed Dagutoglu met secretly in Damascus with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal Monday, July 19, as well as getting together with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al Hariri to synchronize their operations against Israel, focusing for now on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
In Israel, meanwhile, the home-made Iron Dome defense system against short- and medium-range missiles was given a showy press after just-completed successful tests – notwithstanding the admission that it would take months before the new system was able to protect the Israeli communities and towns abutting Gaza.
The Iron Dome proved it could simultaneously intercept volleys of rockets coming in from different directions while computing their trajectories to determine which would hit populated areas.
However,Deputy Defense Minister Mattan Vilnai, who is responsible for homeland security, was enlisted Tuesday for a radio interview to cool the excitement of the 300,000 civilians targeted for Palestinian missile attacks from Gaza for eight years and the communities of northern Israeli who lived in the shadow of Hizballah's rockets up until the 2006 Lebanon war.
The Rafael-produced Iron Dome, while the most advanced of its kind in the world, promises no more than 80 percent effectiveness, Vilnai explained. Furthermore, it would not be permanently deployed at the northern or southern borders – but only as required. Salvation was therefore not yet in sight.
As a cure-all for Israeli border security, Iron Dome has at least four shortcomings, defined here by debkafile's military sources:
1. Its availability. Iron Dome batteries will not be available in the coming months, should a military showdown flare with Iran, Hizballah or Hamas. Most optimistically, it will take another 10 months for Rafael to manufacture the 16-18 batteries required by the two flashpoint border sectors, deploy them and train crews to operate them. Therefore, even if the $1.25 billion can be found for this number, Israel will not have the Iron Dome ready for the next foreseeable rocket or missile attack.
2. No combat experience. Although a smash hit in tests, the system has never been tried in combat conditions. No army in the world will deploy or place orders for Iron Dome before its first test of fire against the diverse arsenals of Hizballah and Hamas.
For example, it has never shown its paces against simultaneous Hamas and Hizballah missile attacks from several directions from rapidly-moving launching locations with the attackers using electronic devices for jamming and deception. Four years ago, in the Lebanon War, Hizballah had begun to master electronic devices for tracking, eavesdropping and locking in on IDF targets. There is every reason to suppose that the Lebanese Shiite terrorists have enhanced this capability since then.
3. Distinguishing targets. Publicity handouts present Iron Dome as capable of distinguishing between incoming missiles heading for target civilian areas and those that will explode in unpopulated areas.
This description oversimplifies the challenges: Today's battlefield is not a clearly-marked arena between enemy missile launchers and anti-missile systems for intercepting them. For instance, if the Iron Dome were to track one volley of missiles aimed at its own base and another targeting the city of Ashkelon, how would it choose which volley to intercept?
This dilemma could be sorted out with a large enough number of batteries rising to an unrealistic figure.
4. Expensive. Iron Dome is costly – half a million dollars per battery including its launching mechanism, compared with a Hamas Qassam missile which costs $150 to manufacture.
On the working assumption that Hamas is able to fire an average 500 rockets a day and Hamas 300 missiles, Israel would need to lay out a staggering $40 million per day to maintain this defensive system in working order, a totally disproportionate cost in military terms.
This spiraling dilemma is the consequence of the Netanyahu-Barak administration's innate lack of resolve.
It does not take a political genius to deduce that the Iron Dome hype was drummed up after the weekly cabinet meeting of Sunday, July 18, laid bare the prime minister and defense minister's ineptness in forging a policy to deal with the massive, uncontrolled influx of up to 1,000 job-seekers per month swarming across the unfenced Egyptian-Israel border – mostly from Eritrea and Sudan.
Around 500 a year in 2008, their numbers have expanded to 8,000 in the first seven months of 2010, with some 50,000 camping in Tel Aviv, 8,000 in Eilat (one-tenth of the population) and thousands in Ashdod and Arad. Police say the situation is out of control.
Five months ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered frontier fence to be built but nothing was done. Tuesday, July 20, Home Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch touring the long, desert border only to announce that a barrier would take three years to build and it was no substitute for a coherent policy of restrictions
The deputy defense minister's cold reality shower have shocked Israelis into grasping that their government is falling down on the two crucial tasks of controlling the river of illegal migrants and protection against enemy rockets.
No consoling peace hoopla is in sight. When Netanyahu met ailing Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on Sunday, they went round in circles for the umpteenth time on ways to get direct talks with the Palestinians off the ground and the situation in the Gaza Strip, which Cairo is only too happy to shunt off to Israel. They did not get around to discussing the critical situation along the much-too-open Egyptian-Israeli border.
debkafile's military sources report that some weeks ago, the American and French military engineers building the steel wall along the Philadelphi route for sealing the Gaza Strip arms smuggling tunnels off from their Sinai routes dropped tools and gave up on the project.
The project was abandoned after Hamas used heavy-duty machinery to cut through the steel girders forming the wall.
This did not stop al Qaeda's No. 2 Ayman Zawahiri in a new video released on July 19 from slamming Arab rulers, notably Egypt, for building the steel wall.
Having given up on tactics for controlling the constant buildup of Hamas and Hizballah missile arsenals, Israel has also left itself without a current, effective defense for its southern population or Galilee and laid itself open to an unhampered influx of African migrants, among whom al Qaeda elements can easily mingle.