Today the Senate passed a $225 million bill to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The house approval is expected before they leave for about a month. Initially, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was searching for cuts that could be made in the budget to pay for the aid. However, as South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham pointed out, “If this is not an emergency, what will be?” The Senate had unanimous consent for the bill and Arizona Sen. McCain called on the President to approve the measure to show Israel “we will stand with them and that we will provide them with what they need in order to defend themselves.”
In the 2006 war with Lebanon, nearly 4,000 rockets landed in Israel. Also, more than 4,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza between 2000 and 2007. The Iron Dome is an outstanding technology developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. They can counter threats from four to 70 km away, but want to extend it to 160 miles.
The Iron Dome is actually a system of systems to counter short-range rockets and artillery shells with a truck-towed mobile defense system. The first component is a radar tracking system which detects a rocket launch. Next, a Battle Management Weapon Control Center monitors the rocket’s path and determines the point of impact. Teams of Israeli military personnel decide whether it should be intercepted. At a cost of between $50,000 and $100,000 each they don’t waste resources on neutral fields. If a missile is heading towards a populated area the Missile Firing Unit launches an interceptor missile using a guidance system and information from the control center. This all takes two to three minutes.
Currently there are eight batteries stationed around Israel, but at least 13 are needed. The U.S. and Israel are collaborating on a system for mid-range rockets to protect against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Sunni extremists in Syria. Israel is also developing a system for long-range threats from Iran. The Senate bill to replenish the Iron Dome will help to extend the protection
Theodore Postol, a professor of national security policy and science technology at MIT, questions the need for the large expenditures. He estimates the Iron Dome’s success rate at five percent. He speculates the success rate of chasing rockets from behind or those based on side-on geometry to be basically zero. He is convinced that Israel’s early warning system which alerts the citizenry and their network of shelters is mainly responsible for their protection.
The U.S. National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, explains the Iron Dome “has literally meant the difference between life and death,” seeing the sheer number of rockets lobbed into Israel daily. In the past 25 days of fighting more than 1,400 Palestinians have been killed and over 60 Israeli soldiers have perished as well. Although a 72-hour cease fire was brokered, within two hours an Israeli unit was attacked by a suicide bomber and a soldier was kidnapped. The senate confirmed Israel’s urgent need for additional ammunition, remarking “the Iron Dome is defensive, not offensive.” As Sen. Graham said, “We are going to be a better friend” to Israel.
Sen. Graham also urged everyone to refrain from urging caution on Israel claiming they were doing more than any other country would in that situation. He gave as an example a hospital that Israel had warned to evacuate for two days before firing. Explosions rocked the air for minutes afterward. Hamas had used it as an arms depot. Even as the Senate replenishes the Iron Dome with its bill today, Sen. Graham appealed to the Palestinian people, saying, “We are not your enemy, but you must reject Hamas.” As Sen. Graham aptly pointed out, “Would anyone be dying in Gaza without Hamas?”
By Laurie Stilwell