Recent critiques of Israel’s Iron Dome, particularly fromMIT professor Theodore Postol, suggest that the missile interceptor system is less accurate than the country would like the rest of the world to think.
But there’s at least one crucial indication that property damage in Israel is actually lower in this latest conflict than it was during the one in which Iron Dome debuted.
According to reports from earlier in the latest conflict, the Israeli government recieved far fewer applications for compensation for hostilities-related damages than it did through a similar span during Israel’s 2012 operation in Gaza.
According to the Israeli website News1, Israel has lost over $US200 million in manufacturing capacity, with around 1,000 factories or farms losing perishable inventory or hamstrung by worker absenteeism and lost production during Operation Protective Edge.
Businesses throughout the south of Israel are reportedly suffering from decreased revenue, leading Israeli finance minister Yair Lapid to announce a series of compensation measures and loan guarantees he dubbed an “economic Iron Dome” for the region.
But there are signs that the physical damage is somewhat less than in similar, past conflicts. The last two Gaza confrontations — in 2008 and 2012 — resulted in a combined 14,000 applications to the Israeli tax authority’s compensation fund, according to News1. Yet according to the Jerusalem Post, within the first eight days of the latest Gaza confrontation, the tax authority recieved 600 applications, only a quarter of the total from Israel’s eight-day-long 2012 operation.
The decreased number of claims came during a period of the conflict when the rocket bombardment was at its highest, with between 120 and 150 projectiles fired over the border each day.
The Iron Dome system offers a contrast with earlier conflicts in which the system wasn’t in place. During the 2006 Lebanon War, rockets fired by the Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah failed to hit major cities like Jerusalem or Tel Aviv — and still managed to cause over $US1 billion in damage over three weeks that the taxation authority later compensated, according to News1.
This was far more than what was paid out due to attacks on Israel during 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defence, which included a higher frequency of rocket attacks than the Lebanon War, this time targeted at major cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
But the eight-day 2012 conflict also featured Iron Dome’s debut. And if the decrease in compensating claims during this conflict is any indication, the system has apparently improved in the intervening years.
Of course, Iron Dome is far from perfect. It was tailor-made for the specific problem of basic, inaccurate mid-range rockets — a threat that few other countries or militaries actually face. At the moment, it has questionable applicability outside of Israel. Iron Dome would do little to counter the more sophisticated missiles that North Korea has aimed at Seol, for instance.
And it’s also unknown whether it’s possible to overload the system. No militant group has tried this yet, and it’s perhaps unlikely a last-ditch rocket blitz will happen in this latest flare-up, given Israel’s success so far in destroying rockets and rocket launching sites. But Iron Dome could be of somewhat more limited use in the face of a simultaneous assault of dozens of projectiles.
It was recently revealed that hackers — likely from China — compromised the systems of several companies working on Iron Dome in 2011 and 2012.
Finally, there are rockets that fall inside of Iron Dome’s range, like the short-range mortar that killed four Israelis earlier today.
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