Were it not for the astonishing Iron Dome missile defense system, the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group would have been able to reduce Israel’s residential areas to rubble in recent years, rendering much of the country unliveable. It would also have condemned Israel to international isolation: A single rocket from Gaza that evaded Iron Dome and fell near Ben Gurion Airport in 2014 prompted most foreign airlines to suspend their flights to Israel.
In this past May’s 11-day conflict alone, an estimated 1,500 rockets fired from Gaza were heading directly into Israeli civilian neighborhoods. In excess of 1,400 of them were knocked out of the sky by Iron Dome interceptors. In the little more than a decade since the system was first rushed into service, it has stopped thousands of the terror groups’ indiscriminate rocket launches from killing and maiming Israelis, with an intercept rate somewhere between 85 and 90 percent.
While simultaneously protesting to a gullible world the Israeli security blockade on Gaza that prevents a more rapid development of its capacity to wreak destruction in Israel, Hamas works feverishly to outwit Iron Dome — altering the range of its rockets, modifying their warheads, attempting to overwhelm the system with multiple launches, and, most recently, by utilizing drones to carry its warheads across the border.
Acutely conscious of the lives at stake, Iron Dome’s developers continually upgrade it, racing desperately to stay one step ahead of the terrorists.
The United States has been a core, consistent partner in the development and funding of Iron Dome. This is an immensely expensive enterprise: Each of the dozen or so Iron Dome batteries reportedly deployed by Israel costs upwards of $50 million, and each interceptor rocket costs $20,000-$100,000. The Gaza rockets they stop, by contrast, range in cost from hundreds of dollars to the low thousands.
But, on Tuesday, with their political power magnified by the gulf between US Democrats and Republicans on almost everything, a small group of “progressive” Democratic legislators held their party hostage and secured the removal of a clause providing $1 billion in supplementary funding for Iron Dome from a critical US government-funding bill.
In the Barack Obama era, a president heavily criticized by many in Israel for his positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the Iranian nuclear threat, helped ensure that funding for Iron Dome was approved with alacrity, even when Capitol Hill was at its most dysfunctional.
Hosting Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House only last month, President Joe Biden took pains to stress, “I fully, fully, fully support replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome system.”
That Democratic members of Congress today would even wish to prevent, never mind succeed in preventing, the smooth approval of funding for Iron Dome dismally underlines the immorality taking hold in small but now self-evidently potent areas of that party when it comes to Israel.
For seeking to deny funds to Israel for Iron Dome is indeed immoral. This is a military system whose sole purpose and capability is defensive. It keeps people alive despite terrorists’ best attempts to kill them. It is the vital first line of defense against the war crime of indiscriminate rocket fire directed at civilians.
Far from protecting Palestinian civilians, hobbling Iron Dome would likely have the opposite effect
Those US legislators doing their utmost to deprive Israel of its protection are attempting to abandon Israelis to that deadly fire. They are opposing Israeli civilians’ right to a shield against murderous terrorism.
Iron Dome’s principal deployment, moreover, has been facing a territory, Gaza, in which Israel has no military or civilian presence — having withdrawn to international acclaim in 2005 — an enclave that is ruled by a globally reviled terrorist organization.
It would also be crucial in any war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terror army with far greater rocket and missile capabilities than Hamas and the shared goal of destroying Israel.
Without the protection afforded by Iron Dome, it is worth stressing, the Israeli military would likely be forced to resort to greater use of firepower when the homefront comes under rocket attack, in order to limit the duration of conflict and minimize Israeli civilian deaths — likely leading to greater civilian casualties in the terrorists’ home territory.
In other words, far from protecting Palestinian civilians, hobbling Iron Dome would probably have the opposite effect.
For some legislators, obsessed by a loathing for a small state in a toxic region, absolutely no avenue is off-limits
Leading Democrats are assuring Israel and Israel’s supporters in the US that the capitulation to the progressive legislators is a short-term setback that will be swiftly reversed. Anything else would be unthinkable.
But the very readiness, the cynical scheming to target Iron Dome, of all things, is despicable and unforgivable. It shows that, for some legislators, obsessed by a loathing for a small state in a toxic region, absolutely no avenue is off-limits when it comes to harming Israel and rendering its people vulnerable to their would-be killers.
** This Editor’s Note was sent out earlier Wednesday in ToI’s weekly update email to members of the Times of Israel Community. To receive these Editor’s Notes as they’re released, join the ToI Community here.
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
I'm proud of our coverage of this government's plans to overhaul the judiciary, including the political and social discontent that underpins the proposed changes and the intense public backlash against the shakeup.
Your support through The Times of Israel Community helps us continue to keep readers across the world properly informed during this tumultuous time. Have you appreciated our coverage in past months? If so, please join the ToI Community today.
~ Carrie Keller-Lynn, Political Correspondent
We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.
That’s why we started the Times of Israel eleven years ago - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.
So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.
For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel