The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


Israel’s Search for Security through Technology

Posted in Internal Conflicts and Human Security by NTSblog on May 10, 2011
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On 27 March 2011, Israel deployed the world’s first anti-rocket defense system called the Iron Dome. This system was expected to increase Israel’s security against armed groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. According to its manufacturer RAFAEL Advanced Systems Ltd., Iron Dome is an effective and innovative mobile defense solution for countering short range rockets and 155 mm artillery shell threats with ranges of up to 70 km in all weather conditions. It was subsequently used in a combat operation for the first time on 7 April 2011 when a battery located in southern Israel intercepted and destroyed nine Grad rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The development of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system was in keeping up with Israel’s doctrine of maintaining Qualitative Military Edge (QME) over its adversaries. According to Israel’s first prime minister David Ben Gurion, “Israel is and will continue to be quantitatively inferior vis-à-vis the Arab world” and therefore it “must develop a very strong qualitative edge”. This doctrine has allowed Israeli conventional forces to prevail over the numerically superior Arab conventional forces in wars such as the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).

QME however is less effective against armed groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah who use both conventional as well as unconventional military tactics against Israel. Such tactics resulted in what was known as a ‘hybrid war’. One weapon system that enabled armed groups to employ hybrid warfare strategy is rockets which allows them to launch their own stand-off attacks. In the 2006 Lebanon War for example, Hezbollah fired some 4,000 rockets at Israel killing 44 people. Israel believed that Hezbollah now possesses 40,000 rockets including those that can hit targets of up to 200 km. Hamas on the other hand has rockets which can hit targets of up to 45 km. This developments prompted Israel to develop the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.

At first sight, the Iron Dome system appears to be a ‘game-changer’ in the struggle between Israel and armed groups. Prior to the deployment of the Iron Dome, Israel has tried air strikes to full-scale ground operation to halt rocket fires prompting considerable international criticism. Iron Dome therefore represents a different approach to the missile threat and has compromised Hamas and Hezbollah’s strategy of striking Israel’s civilian population. The Iron Dome has further reinforced Israel’s belief in military technology as a way to enhance security. Military and technological measures, however, only tackle the symptoms of the problem and did little to address the root causes. As so often in the Middle East, it is the underlying political situation that is at the heart of the conflict. And this looks to be as intractable as ever. Even as Israel enhanced its military technology, it must also continue to engage armed groups and Arab countries in a dialogue in order to arrive at political solutions to the conflicts. Only then will Israel be able to gain the security that it craves for.

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