The ability to develop and purchase a major long-range missile defense system, meant to thwart long-range Iranian weapons, may be cut back because of financial restraints in the US and Israel.
The Arrow 3 missile defense system (also known as Hetz in Hebrew) is being developed as a joint project between Israel and the US. However, the Israeli daily Maariv reported Monday that a $55 million budget cut by the Americans was not met by an increase of funds from Jerusalem, which may also decrease funding for the project.
The Arrow would be the newest and most advanced system in Israel’s missile defense array, and is seen as a major part of country’s defenses against the Iranian Shehab family of long-range missiles.
“It’s a careless decision which is dangerous for the security of Israel,” an unnamed official was quoted by Maariv saying.
The former director of the Defense Ministry’s Israel Missile Defense Organization, Uzi Rubin, told The Times of Israel that such a budget cut would “categorically” have an impact on Israel’s security. “The public wants social justice,” he said. “They want more money for butter and less for guns, and so this is the result.”
He added that the damage would not be felt immediately but rather farther down the line, as the project was brought to fruition. “In a situation like we had with Syria a few weeks ago [with an apparently imminent US-led military strike on the Assad regime], in which in my opinion a Syrian response was almost certain, the Israeli public will then ask where’s the defense?”
The Arrow 3 missile interceptor is designed to deal with nuclear payloads by hitting long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles after they have left the atmosphere, thereby reducing possible fallout from a detonation.
A Defense Ministry spokesperson said the decision to cut the budget was not final and was only one of a range of options being explored.
It was unclear whether the budget cuts would affect the ongoing research and development related to the project, the purchase of intercepting missiles or some sort of combination.
The decrease in funding will come as part of austerity measures being enacted by the US to reduce its budget deficit, the paper reported, adding that it could also affect Israel’s purchasing of more Iron Dome short-range missile defense batteries and the development of mid-range interceptors.
Israel’s Defense Ministry, facing some NIS 4 billion (some $1.1 billion) in budget cuts, will likely be unable to make up the difference and may have to cut back its own commitment as well, Maariv reported.