Northern Command Chief Major-General Gadi Eisenkot on Tuesday said that active rocket and missile interception systems – such as the Iron Dome and Arrow – are designed to protect the Israel Defense Forces' offensive capabilities, and not necessarily civilians.
During a speech at the University of Haifa, Eisenkot stressed that "the residents of Israel
shouldn't be under the illusion that someone will open an umbrella over their heads.
"The systems are designed to protect military bases, even if this means that citizens suffer discomfort during the first days of battle," he added.
At the beginning of November, regional council heads from the Gaza vicinity appealed to the High Court of Justice and demanded that the state installs the Iron Down in order to protect its residents – or alternatively place portable shelters throughout the vicinity.
Eisenkot's comments stirred a storm in the Gaza vicinity regional councils.
Shaar Hanegev Regional Council head Alon Shuster said that he was not entirely surprised by the major-general's comments.
"In a sense it explains the ambiguity surrounding our appeal. Every one knows that the government promised the Iron Dome for the protection of Israel's citizens – no one mentioned IDF bases in the decision," he said.
"I do not deal with strategy and defense, but it was made clear that the system was allocated to the Gaza vicinity. Two years after the government decision it seems we were all led astray, including perhaps the government," Shuster said, adding that the council heads intend to present Eisenkot's statements during their appeal hearing at the Supreme Court.
Eshkol Regional Council Head Haim Yalin said, "I wish to remind everyone that there is a government decision in regards to the development of the Iron Dome, which is part of the NIS1 billion (about $270 million) of the state budget that was allocated to the protection of the Gaza vicinity communities.
"Last time I checked on Google, we were still living in a democratic country, and the army is obliged to act according to the government's decisions," he said.
Israel's aerial defense apparatus consists of various systems including the Iron Dome – meant to intercept rockets with ranges of 5-70km; David's Sling – scheduled to be operational by 2013 and designed to intercept long-range missiles; and Arrow – designed to intercept ballistic missiles at high altitudes.
The newest Arrow 3 missile interception system was unveiled during an aerospace convention in Jerusalem earlier this month.
The system is slated to be completed by 2015 and will include an interception system for short-range missiles as well as "Kamikaze satellites" that can blow up ballistic missiles outside of the atmosphere.
Shmulik Hadad and Ilana Curiel contributed to this report