The down side of Iron Dome

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  • 08/21/2022

Writing in the Washington PostMax Fisher relays some thoughts from Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic about why Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system might not be an unalloyed blessing.

First, Goldberg (who is actually relaying an observation from a correspondent): "Obviously, any weapons system that reduces civilian Israeli fatalities is a good thing. Let???s get that out of the way first and foremost: we are right to hail this marvelous new technology. But ideally, the Iron Dome would allow Israeli civilian leaders the space to make hard choices about what, exactly, they are to do with Gaza. I had the same hope for the Wall/Fence in the West Bank. Leaving aside for a moment the tricky issue of where the Wall/Fence was constructed, it nonetheless effected a stunning drop in suicide attacks in Israel proper. This, again, is a good thing. But instead of giving Israeli civilian leaders the space to make hard decisions about what to do in the West Bank, the Wall/Fence instead allowed most Israelis to forget about the West Bank and the Palestinians altogether. The Palestinians, out of sight, drifted out of mind as well."

Then Fisher adds: "Here???s why you might disagree: if you think that Israel???s only real option on Gaza is to fight these periodic battles with Hamas, if you think that a permanent peace deal will never happen, or if you have tremendous faith in the long-term strategic thinking of Israel???s leaders and/or its voters. If you???re not sure you hold any of those views, then you might find something to this argument. Still, it is extremely difficult to argue against anything that saves human lives, as Iron Dome appears to be doing, so don???t look for anyone to advocate for shutting the systems off."

I have to admit I'm a bit surprised by this line of argument, because when I saw the title of Fisher's piece - "Why Iron Dome Might Be Bad For Israel" - I assumed he'd go with the brutal calculus of the Middle East "peace" process: the system's "down side" is that it prevents Israeli casualties, so apologists for Palestinian terror can say the IDF is over-reacting to huge rocket barrages that don't inflict all that much damage.  That argument has been heard quite a bit over the past few days.

A few hours after the cease-fire went into effect, the Israeli Defense Force tallied up the score: "Over the past 8 days, 152 rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Strip - nearly 3 times the amount that hit populated areas in Israel."  That's partially due to poor equipment and lousy skill on the part of Hamas terrorists, but also thanks to the Iron Dome intercepts.

Iron Dome has proven very effective at saving lives, but it's not really cost-effective; as Fisher notes, its detractors have pointed out since the beginning that it spends $50,000 to knock down an $800 rocket.  But of course, such financial damage is of no concern to the people who didn't really pay much attention to those Palestinian rocket barrages until they provoked return fire from the IDF.

It seems to me that the long-term problem is less that Israeli leaders will forget about the Palestinians, and more that the Palestinian leadership can't stop thinking about the Israelis.  It's too bad for the Palestinian people that they keep squandering their treasury on cheap, random murder weapons for Iron Dome to knock down.


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