The current escalation
in the Gaza region was planned in advance. The IDF
in fact set up an “ambush,” while the Southern Command prepared thoroughly days ahead of the current flare-up.
The Air Force deployed in advance the three Iron Dome
batteries and covered the Gaza Strip skies with a reinforced presence of aircraft. The results are commensurate with these preparations: With the exception of several wounded civilians caught up in the fire while playing basketball, there have been no casualties thus far.
Moreover, all the rockets that were supposed to land in populated areas were intercepted. This impressive military balance sheet grants the political leadership flexibility and the ability to take decisions free from domestic and international pressure.
Indeed, the orders to the army are as follows: Should the rocket fire continue beyond the point Israel earmarked, the IDF will be given the green light to expand its activities against the Strip, including ground operations. This red line will be affected by the number of casualties and the stamina of a million and a half Israeli citizens in southern Israel whose daily lives are paralyzed.
Meanwhile, a lesson drawn from past experience prompted a change in the utilization of Iron Dome, with the new tactics resulting in an impressive outcome in intercepting barrages of five to six rockets.
Now, Israel is presenting Hamas’ government with a leadership dilemma: In an era where Hamas wishes to portray itself as a pragmatic political party in the eyes of the world, will it have the power and desire to restrain Islamic Jihad fire that also threatens Hamas’ own hegemony in the Strip?
In Israel’s view, Hamas’ responsibility for events is not only ministerial. The Shin Bet has identified the group’s duplicity a while ago. Hamas’ military wing never stopped its terror activity but is hiding behind the attacks of “subsidiaries” bearing different names.
Israeli officials decided not to make it easy on Hamas given the above the dilemma and keep pressing until the fire abates. The current round of fighting is a blatant Israeli signal: There is no immunity, even in Gaza, to Palestinian terror activity undertaken via the Sinai Peninsula. Indeed, Sinai is a major terror front, and Israel will not tolerate a situation whereby Gaza serves as a base for Sinai attacks.
And on a final note, something about Iron dome. This system has become a political-diplomatic tool, just like any other national defense system such as the fences on the Egyptian and Lebanese borders. At this time, our political leadership can order counter-terror operations in the Strip and sustain fire until taking a decision thanks to Iron Dome’s interception capabilities.
Hence, the system must not be undermined in the framework of the current budgetary battles. At this time, Israel possesses three batteries that are deployed, for the time being, in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beersheba. A fourth battery needed to protect Gaza-region residents will only be received in July of this year.
Overall, Israel needs at least nine batteries. The fifth one will be received at the beginning of 2013 and a sixth one in the middle of 2013. This will exhaust the currently available budget. Yet those who curbed the flow of funds must realize that had it not been for Iron Dome, the IDF would be inside the Gaza Strip by now, with dozens of casualties on both sides.