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Government said set to launch NIS 30 billion missile defense plan

Reports say 10-year program aims to provide shield for entire country against possible massive, multi-front rocket attack

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A test of the David's Sling missile defense system. (Defense Ministry)
A test of the David's Sling missile defense system. (Defense Ministry)

The government reportedly intends to launch a multi-billion-shekel missile defense plan aimed at providing blanket coverage for the entire country against a massive rocket attack, in what would be the biggest program in the history of the Israel Defense Forces.

Spread over 10 years, the plan will cost some NIS 30 billion ($8.2 billion), reports said Tuesday.

The reports came one day after the first known operational launch of the David’s Sling medium-range air defense system, which was triggered by a pair of Syrian surface-to-surface missiles, each carrying approximately a half ton of explosives. Israeli authorities initially believed the missiles were heading toward Israeli territory, but they landed inside Syria.

The reported plan aims to enable the development and purchase of advanced systems that will offer comprehensive protection for the entire country.

The program is scheduled to begin in 2019 and will end by 2028, the reports said. It is reportedly set to be approved by the security cabinet at its upcoming weekly meeting on Sunday.

In January the government budgeted NIS 63 billion ($18.4 billion) for defense for 2019. Half the annual cost of NIS 3 billion for the new project will be drawn from the existing defense budget and the rest will covered by increasing the budget, the Marker news site said.

An Iron Dome air defense system fires to intercept a rocket from the Gaza Strip in Tel Aviv, July 9, 2014. (AP/Dan Balilty)

A key part of the plan is missile defense. Under the program, the number of missile defense systems will be increased several times over with the expectation that a future war would see a massive attack of advanced, accurate missiles on the country, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

According to the report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, and top figures from the defense establishment held meetings out of the public eye in recent months to formulate the plan.

A senior government source told the newspaper, “There has never been a plan like this, certainly not on such a huge scale and cost. This is a large-scale defense and attack plan.”

“The plan will particularly increase the emergency resilience of the country, including in the event of multiple fronts,” the source said, adding that it will “greatly increase and broaden the protective vest for the country’s civilians and grant the IDF the strategic depth needed to achieve a clear, decisive and preferably swift military outcome.”

Along with boosting home front defense in times of war, the program will mandate an increase in defense industry production, requiring an influx of new workers and the allocation of resources to develop necessary facilities.

Cash for the program will be raised by streamlining the army alongside additional funding from the state budget, but not at the expense of education, health or welfare, the report said, without specifying where the rest of the money will come from. The heads of the Finance Ministry’s budgeting division were involved in planning the project, which is likely to involve paring down the number of wage earners in the army, the report said.

A smoke trail of a David’s Sling interceptor missile is seen in northern Israel after the interceptor was fired toward a Syrian SS-21 missile, on July 23, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The David’s Sling, which was fired Monday for the first time, makes up the middle tier of Israel’s existing multi-layered anti-missile defense network. The lowest tier is the Iron Dome system, capable of intercepting short-range rockets, small unmanned aerial vehicles and mortar shells like those that have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip or from southern Lebanon. At the top are the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems, which are intended to engage long-range ballistic missiles.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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