Israel Enters the Era of Laser Warfare

Last week, for the first time, the IDF shot down a missile fired from Gaza with a “directed-energy engagement system”—in layman’s terms, a laser. This experimental new system, known as the Iron Beam, has been developed to supplement, and perhaps one day to supplant, the Iron Dome. Elliott Abrams explains its significance:

Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system is well known, and it works beautifully: 90-percent effective. But it is expensive: each Iron Dome battery can cost $100 million, and each interceptor costs between $40,000 and $50,000. As Hamas fires its thousands of rockets and missiles at Israel—it’s fired an estimated 10,000 since October 7—the costs of defense mount and the supply of interceptors can run out.

Iron Dome batteries typically have about 60 to 80 interceptor missiles at hand. What if Hizballah or Hamas fires 100 missiles at one location? A laser system overcomes these problems. As long as you have electricity, you have laser beams to fire again and again at incoming threats. Swarms of approaching missiles can’t overwhelm the number of interceptors you have on hand, and there’s no need to worry about resupply—the kind of resupply the United States is now providing Israel.

Today, Israel can be forced to spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to shoot down Hamas rockets that cost $600 each. With lasers, the balance of costs all of a sudden will favor the defender, not the aggressor. . . . No doubt Hizballah and Iran are watching and worrying.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security, Israeli technology


What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security