One of the biggest mistakes made this week by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in managing Israel’s military operation, dubbed Return Echo, against a Palestinian missile offensive from Gaza was to politicize data on the operational modes of the Israel-made Iron Dome missile defense system.
In an article this week in the Weekly Standard (March 11), Elliott Abrams writes: “What does ‘politicizing intelligence’ mean? Using intel, or more often partial intel (or military information) to produce an effect in line with White House policies rather than giving a full picture of a particular situation.”
This is an exceptionally grave accusation to be leveled publicly by a former high-ranking official against a US administration. But that is exactly what Netanyahu and Barak did this week with Iron Dome.
They did this because they never intended from the start to send the Israel Defense Forces into action to fight the Jihad Islami in the Gaza Strip – even after nearly 200 missiles were fired – because a ground operation would have drawn too many units away from other fronts where they were needed to stand ready for a potential war with Iran or with its allies, Syria and Hizballah.
In need of an “Israeli hero” as a morale-booster, they hit on the novel, homemade Iron Dome and began building up its amazing exploits against the falling Grad missiles.
At first, the wonder weapon’s feats diverted attention from the IDF’s restraint in putting a stop to the Jihad Islami’s offensive. But after two days of relentless missile attacks, some, about which the public was not informed, targeting military bases, the hype was toned down because certain unpalatable facts were coming to light.
Iron Dome flaws detected for correction
1. The boast of Netanyahu and Barak and some generals that Iron Dome’s performance gave them tactical leeway against an enemy, proved hollow when it was realized that no Israel armored or infantry force was using this leeway to strike at the Jihad Islami’s command centers. Nothing was going on but surgical air strikes against missile teams in the Gaza Strip and some weapons supply routes.
2. Iron Dome is the most advanced mobile defense solution developed anywhere for countering short-range rockets and 155 mm artillery shells with ranges of up to 70 km in all weather conditions. But though remarkably effective it is not a 100 percent impenetrable, as portrayed.
Developed at breakneck speed in just a year and a half, unprecedented for a weapons system of this type, the system was fielded this week in what would normally have been operational field trials to check for flaws and defects.
The main flaw discovered in its four days of trial by fire was a multiplicity of bugs in the operational software of the missile launching system. The bugs had to be erased before each launching and the entire program reset. The frequent and unforeseen changes to the system’s software make Iron Dome vulnerable to cyber attack.
Israel needs 13 Iron Dome batteries to defend all its borders. Only three operational
3. To protect all its borders against short and medium-range missiles, Israel needs 13 Iron Dome batteries – 6 in the south facing Gaza and 7 in the north opposite Syria and Hizballah in Lebanon.
Only three were fielded this week. Production of the fourth was rushed through and it is still being run in by the IDF.
Wednesday, March 14, Prime Minister Netanyahu gave his most explicit speech yet about Israel’s intention to strike Iran’s nuclear program in the near future. Addressing the Knesset, he said: “We shall strike Iran even if our American friends object.”
If Israel does in fact attack the Iranian nuclear program and a regional war does erupt in the Middle East, Iron Dome’s manufacturers, the Rafael-Advanced Defense Systems, have not the slightest chance of producing the full complement required to defend Israel’s northern and southern borders in time.
This means that Israel may go to war armed with defense systems (the Arrow anti-ballistic missile missile) capable of intercepting long-range projectiles – but inadequate defenses against medium-range rockets and only partial protection against short-range missiles.