On its 25th day, Israel’s war with Hamas saw a UN- brokered, 72-hour, humanitarian ceas-fire dissolve in less than 90 minutes after going into effect. It was not the first, and not the last attempt at a negotiated cease fire, but like all the others, Hamas broke it almost before it began.
The silence was broken when an IDF team, approaching the mouth of a Hamas terror tunnel near the Rafah frontier, was ambushed by a group of Hamas terrorists emerging from the tunnel. Three IDF soldiers were killed in the attack. One of them, Lt. Hadar Goldin, was first thought to have been kidnapped and was the subject of an intense search, but on Sunday, August 3, he was declared among the dead. The Hamas suicide bomber killed himself and two other Hamas fighters were killed in the ensuing fire fight. The IDF retaliated with artillery and aerial bombardment on Rafah, and Hamas rockets resumed with a vengeance to rain down on southern Israel. Only Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system kept Israel from having high numbers of civilian casualties from the Hamas rockets.
An estimated 65 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Israeli retaliation. The total death toll in Operation Protective Edge at this writing is approximately 1,800 Palestinians, an estimated one third to one half of whom are believed to be Hamas fighters, 63 IDF soldiers, and three Israeli civilians.
At a White House Press conference on August 1, President Obama condemned the kidnapping and Hamas’ violence, requesting the immediate unconditional release of the kidnapped IDF officer. Noting that this was the sixth breach of a truce by Hamas, Obama said that this made prospects “challenging” for any possible cease fire and that both sides should restrain from actions that might result in further civilian casualties.
Emergency Funding for Iron Dome
Israel may have won a media battle for the moment as the world witnesses the scope of Hamas’ duplicity, but given the dramatic rise in anti-Israel, anti-Semitic sentiment around the world, this advantage is likely to be short-lived. Operation Protective Edge is turning out to be one of the toughest actions for Israel, strategically, tactically, and from the perspective of public opinion.
In more than one respect, it is reminiscent of the October War of 1973, the Yom Kippur War. During that War with Egypt and Syria, Israel was taken by surprise by the aggressive attacks from both north and south. In Operations Protective Edge, the surprise came from the unexpected number and sophistication of the network of terror tunnels that Hamas had built, some of which led well into Israeli territory.
In the Yom Kippur War, President Nixon ordered the replenishment of tank and aircraft parts flown directly from the US to Israel. In Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Israel requested replenishment of the Tamir anti-rocket missiles and ammunition, the latter from the US War Reserve Stock in Israel. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had requested $175 million for Iron Dome in an Emergency Supplemental Appropriation. Subsequently, the request was increased to $225 million by US Senate Appropriations Committee led by Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland).
In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor on July 30, 2014, Mikulski told of receiving a letter from a friend who had made aliyah to Israel, She and her husband, a Professor at Hebrew University, live in Ashkelon near the border of Gaza in southern Israel. Her friend told of the daily rain of rockets that sent her and her husband scampering to find shelter in less than two minutes with the sounding of a wailing red alert siren. Her friend said that Iron Dome was their only protection from death from the skies sent from Gaza. (Watch this You Tube Senate Appropriations video of Sen. Mikulski’s floor speech)
Senator Mikulski also noted that Hamas has launched over 2,700 rockets since the beginning of the recent hostilities. Israel’s nine Iron Dome Batteries had intercepted 515 of them aimed at Israeli population centers, for an effective shoot down rate of 90 percent. She further noted that each Tamir anti-rocket missile in the Iron Dome System costs $50,000 to produce. Do the math; the 515 interceptions cost $25,750,000. Mikulski noted that Israel had developed Iron Dome at a cost of $1 billion. The US has already provided funding of $900 million for the development of this defensive anti-short range rocket system. Earlier this year Congress had appropriated an additional $235 million for Iron Dome research.
But there was a catch to Mikulski’s proposal for the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill (S. 2648), besides funding replenishment of Iron Dome included other funds. There were also funds for Emergency Humanitarian Crisis, caused by the deluge of unaccompanied minors flooding our Southern Borders,m and funding to combat wildfires out West. That is known as “Christmas treeing” in the argot of Congressional legislative legerdemain. A statement by the Zionist Organization of America vehemently objected to this legislation and urged Israel supporters to contact Senators and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to sever the legislation. They feared that the Republican minority would reject the overly inclusive bill, laden with unacceptable conditions relating to the border issues.
According to the Washington Jewish Week, that warning by the ZOA may have worked. Perhaps, an additional motivation for Congress to act quickly before the August recess was the Hamas violent rejection of the 72 hour truce.
Whatever the motivation, on Thursday night, July 31st, the Republican minority blocked the packaged legislation by a vote of 50 to 44. The following morning, August 1st, the Supplemental Appropriations of $225 million for replenishment of the Iron Dome System was passed by unanimous consent by the Senate, virtually assuring passage by the House. The only addition was funding to combat wildfires in the US West.
On Friday night, August 1st, the House passed the Iron Dome Emergency Supplemental by an overwhelming vote of 395 to eight, with four Republicans and Four democrats voting against it. House Speaker John Boehner said, “ America must send a clear and united message: Israel is our friend and Israel’s enemies are our enemies. As long as I am Speaker of the House, this will be our cause.” The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.
The Iron Dome
The Israeli military contractor Rafael designed and built its existing “Iron Dome” defense system with funding from the US. The system has proven itself to be extremely accurate and effective. But Israel has already fired hundreds of these missiles to protect its populations centers from Hamas’ rockets and missiles. The critical need now is for Israel to replace the Tamir missiles already fired. That led Israel to approach Massachusetts company Raytheon to help expand its missile defenses. According to a report in The Boston Globe, the venture would be likely to succeed for several reasons:
Raytheon’s contracts with Israel would indirectly help the US economy recoup some of the nearly $1 billion in US aid that enabled Israeli designers to develop the Iron Dome system in recent years. The Obama administration requested $175 million for Israel’s Iron Dome in the 2015 budget, and that amount has been doubled by congressional defense committees. The House measure required that much of that money be spent on US components, which is likely to be beneficial to Raytheon as well as to Israel since the structure of US aid to Israel is comprised largely of loans and buy backs. This would contribute to the buy-back program.
Israel’s missile defense system is based on three Israeli-designed components:
Stage 1- Iron Dome. It was developed in response to Israel’s Second War with Lebanon in 2006, when almost 4,000 rockets landed in Northern Israel and the ongoing rocket assault from Gaza. According to the IDF Blog, since 2001 more than 15,240 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel, aimed at the nation’s most heavily populated areas. The Iron Dome was designed to address this problem. But it is not the entire missile shield – it is one layer of it created to tackle missiles with ranges between 2.5 to 43 miles. The system, which has been operational since 2011, was designed to operate effectively in all weather conditions.
The second stage is called David’s Sling, or “Magic Wand,” and it targets ballistic missiles and medium-range rockets, unmanned and manned aircraft, cruise missiles and guided weapons in the 43 to 155 miles range. This stage has been under development with Raytheon and has, from all accounts, been very successful in tests. It was originally expected to be operational later this year, but an Israeli defense official recently revealed that it would probably not be ready before 2015 because of budget shortfalls.
Stage III – Arrow 3 The third stage of Israel’s missile defense system is the Arrow (Hetz) missile system, a product of Israel Aircraft Industries, which will be used to bring down long-range ballistic missiles. The Arrow system uses the two-stage Arrow 2 interceptor with a fragmentation warhead to destroy an incoming target, (unlike the Tamir, which only knocks the missile out of the sky, but doesn’t destroy the warhead, according to MIT professor Theodore Postol).
Arrow 3 is also a two-stage interceptor and destroys an incoming threat with an exoatmospheric kill vehicle. In this generation of the Arrow system, the fragmenting warhead is replaced by a “hit-to-kill” warhead. This change will have the potential effect of expanding the engagement range up to four times.
The UN and the Iron Dome
There was one note of lunacy related to Iron Dome, courtesy of the United Nations, Human Rights Council. FoxNews reported:
The United Nations slammed Israel for possibly committing war crimes in its fight against Hamas — and then, in a moment of sheer irrationality, backed that accusation by suggesting the Jewish nation ought to be sharing its Iron Dome defensive technology with the very terror group it’s fighting.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, a Southern African Judge of Tamil Indian origin, said to members of the media at an “emergency” meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council that Israel was falling short in its duty to protect citizens in the Gaza Strip from getting killed by its rockets.
“No such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling,” she said.
Ms Pillay is delusional in supposing for one moment that Israel would provide its protective missile shield to Hamas. Aside from the stupidity of expecting Israel to share proprietary technology related to its national security with an enemy, it would completely seal the destruction of the Jewish state, by making its response to Hamas attacks ineffectual.
Perhaps Ms Pillay ought to trying living in Ashkelon for a day to experience what Senator Mikulski’s friend has to live through every day. But for the protection of Iron Dome, she might not have had the opportunity to share her story.
By way of explanation for such a ridiculous assertion, it must be remembered that this is the UN Human Rights Council, presided over by such ardent supporters of human rights as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia.Moreover, the council is notorious for its anti-Israel positions. Not only has the council passed 27 separate resolutions condemning Israel for supposed human rights violations, thereby siding with terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas, it has virtually ignored the egregious and well-documented human rights violations in places like Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan, etc In fact, the Council in its first year alone, failed to condemn human rights violations occurring in any of the world’s 191 other countries.
The US Congress has not been notable over the last few years for taking decisive action on any front. Over 340 bills passed by the House of Representatives have languished in the Senate without even a hearing. Yet at the end of their 2014 summer session, both houses of Congress passed this appropriations bill so that Israel could replace the Tamir missiles already expended in the current war with Hamas. For Israel, this is a life and death issue. Only the Iron Dome system has protected them from nearly 2,000 rockets fired at its population centers since the war began.
Congress rose to the occasion this time and passed the $225 million for the Pentagon to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome. For once, both houses of Congress and President Obama seem to agree on something. And Israelis, facing the consequences of this terrible war, will be the beneficiaries.
Since a fundamental part of the Hamas campaign was to humiliate Israel through it constant barrage of rocket attacks, the Iron Dome system that shoots them down before they can inflict damage has contributed significantly to Israeli’s success, and to the limited loss of civilian life. The IDF is now redeployings its troops to the Israeli side of the border and completing its operations in Gaza, finding and destroying the network of terrorist tunnels. Israelis can at least rest tonight, knowing that the Iron Dome will continue to keep them safe from the seemingly endless rain of Hamas’ rockets.