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  • Mark Lavie

“Iron Dome” saves Palestinian lives, too

As Iron Dome interceptors knock Hamas rockets out of the skies, protecting millions of Israelis, and Israel pounds Gaza with air strikes and a ground incursion to try to stop the barrages—there’s a worldwide mantra that parallels the playground whine: “It’s not fair!”

“It’s not fair” that Israel has bomb shelters and reinforced rooms in so many of its apartments and buildings, but the Palestinians don’t. “It’s not fair” that Israel has a system to intercept incoming rockets, but the Palestinians don’t.

And most of all, “it’s not fair” that Israel’s counterattack is killing Palestinian civilians.

Let’s take these one at a time, but with this in mind: Iron Dome has saved many more Palestinians than Israelis.

--Israel has spent millions, with public and private money, to provide its people with protection from bombs and rockets. For decades, new residential housing units have been required to include a reinforced safe room. Likewise commercial structures. The government subsidizes some of them, and buyers—that’s to say, Israel’s citizens—pick up the rest of the tab. No one complains.

Any responsible society, facing the threats Israel does, would or should do the same. Gaza, on the other hand, does not face such threats. Not a single bomb would fall on Gaza if terrorists there did not fire rockets at Israel or massacre Israeli families in their homes. So Gaza “needs” bomb shelters only because of the actions of its Hamas rulers.

--Iron Dome is an amazing Israeli technological development. Firing an interceptor to knock out an incoming rocket is like throwing a stone at another flying stone, and hitting it 90+ percent of the time. Go ahead, try that in your backyard.

The main drawback is the expense. Each interceptor costs at least $20,000. So if 8,000 rockets have been fired at Israel in the past three weeks, and even 5,000 of them triggered an Iron Dome response (the system is so sophisticated that it doesn’t aim at rockets headed for open fields), it’s an expenditure of at least $100,000,000 so far.

That’s why some experts and analysts opposed building the Iron Dome safety net. This is from a 2008 article: “Israel is working on a system to shoot down the little rockets, but it's prohibitively expensive and won't be ready for years.”

OK, that was me. I’m glad no one was listening.

Iron Dome has radically changed the equation. We think of it as protecting Israelis from Hamas rockets. That’s only part of the story, perhaps not even the main part.

Pretend for a moment that Israel’s leaders had read my analysis in the Fort Wayne, Indiana “Journal-Gazette” (where it appeared) and decided, yes, he’s right, let’s scrap the Iron Dome project.

What would be Israel’s response today if 8,000 rockets were fired at Israel and exploded in Israeli cities? Or 800? Or 80?

Israel would do what any other country would do—counterattack with full force. Not the current bombing raids aimed at rocket launchers, supplies, Hamas tunnels, leaders and infrastructure.

Those who wail about the humanitarian crisis facing Gaza today should stop to consider this scenario: If Hamas rockets killed hundreds or thousands of Israelis, Israel would be within its rights to blast Gaza off the map to stop the rocket barrages. Tens of thousands of Palestinians would die, maybe hundreds of thousands, all in the name of legitimate self-defense.

Such attacks have been carried out by the US in World War II, Vietnam and Iraq. Carpet-bombing as a military tactic, as in Dunkirk, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has been seen as legitimate—even though there was no direct threat to the US mainland, unlike Hamas attacks on Israel.

But of course, Israel doesn’t do that.

Israel has the firepower, but it has chosen not to. Iron Dome has given it the luxury, the option, to limit its targets to Hamas leaders, weapons and installations.

--That gives some measure of perspective to the complaint about Israel’s attacks killing Palestinian civilians. Despite documented evidence that Hamas is preventing its own people from heeding the Israeli call to evacuate the main battle area, and the documented fact (though sparsely reported because of Hamas intimidation, but that’s another story) that Hamas deliberately sets up its rocket launchers in populated areas and next to mosques and hospitals, the number of Palestinian civilian deaths is relatively low.

Even if one believes the numbers from the Palestinian Health Ministry, which are dodgy at best, then three weeks of intense but targeted Israeli air strikes have taken the lives of, perhaps, 3,000 civilians. Each and every one of them can be attributed to Hamas, because if no rockets were fired at Israel, if no Hamas terrorists massacred Israeli babies, children, women and men, then no Israeli bombs would be dropped on Gaza.

Now consider this: The picture of a full-scale Israeli counterattack in Gaza in the absence of Iron Dome protection is just a nightmare scenario. If in the north, Hezbollah enters the war with its huge arsenal of Iranian rockets and missiles—the nightmare could come devastatingly true in Lebanon.

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