When Palestinian terrorists launched some 400 rockets into Israel last week, the Iron Dome anti-missile system shot down many of them. Since the system went into operation in 2011, it has intercepted 1,500 rockets and established a 90-percent success rate. Yet this high-tech defense has its critics, as Jacob Nagel and Jonathan Schanzer write:
[B]y granting time and space to Israeli officials to consider a proportional or surgical [retaliatory] strike, Iron Dome can have the unintended consequence of potentially prolonging a conflict. In other words, the system raises the threshold for Israeli political leaders and military brass to launch a decisive operation, even as the volume of rocket provocations increases.
There is also a psychological-warfare element. Israel’s enemies can repeatedly broadcast photos of their cadres firing rockets with relatively little response from the Israeli side. And when Israel does respond with lethal force, the international reaction is often harsh, with critics pointing to the efficacy of Iron Dome as a reason why Israel need not take decisive action against its enemies.
That said, if Hizballah or Hamas seeks an all-out confrontation with Israel, they will fire thousands of rockets regardless of whether or not Israel deploys Iron Dome. Indeed, both groups did exactly that in 2006 (before Iron Dome’s invention) and 2014 (well after).
Iron Dome has [undoubtedly] given Israel an advantage. But this advantage is in no way guaranteed to last. Constant examination and adaptation of the system is necessary to maintain its superiority. Israeli decision-makers must also develop a cohesive strategy to ensure that [Israel’s overarching strategic needs are met].