Israel Shields Public from Risks of War with Iran


The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been   telling Israelis that Israel can attack Iran with minimal   civilian Israeli casualties as a result of retaliation, and   that reassuring message appears to have headed off any   widespread Israeli fear of war with Iran and other   adversaries.

But the message that Iran is too weak to threaten an effective   counterattack is contradicted by one of Israel’s leading experts on   Iranian missiles and the head of its missile defense program for   nearly a decade, who says Iranian missiles are capable of doing   significant damage to Israeli targets. 

The Israeli population has shown little serious anxiety about the   possibility of war with Iran, in large part because they have not   been told that it involves a risk of Iranian missiles destroying   Israeli neighborhoods and key economic and administrative targets.

“People are not losing sleep over this,” Yossi Alpher, a consultant   and writer on strategic issues and former director of the Jaffee   Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, told IPS in an   interview. “This is not a preoccupation of the public the way the   suicide bombers were a decade ago.”

Alpher says one reason for the widespread lack of urgency about a   possible war with Iran is that the scenarios involving such a war are   “so nebulous in the eyes of the public that it’s difficult for them   to focus on it.”

Aluf Benn, the editor in chief of Ha’aretz, told IPS in an interview,   “There is no war mentality,” although he added, “that could change   overnight.” One reason for the relative public calm about the issue,   he suggested, is the official view that Iran’s ability to retaliate   is “very limited.”

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in Bloomberg Mar. 20 that “Some Israel   officials believe Iran’s leaders might choose to play down the insult   of a raid and launch a handful of rockets at Tel Aviv as an angry   gesture rather than declare all-out war.”

But Uzi Rubin, who was in charge of Israel’s missile defence from   1991 to 1999 and presided over the development of the Arrow anti-  missile system, has a much more sombre view of Iran’s capabilities.

The “bad news” for Israel, Rubin told IPS in an interview, is that   the primary factor affecting Iran’s capability to retaliate is the   rapidly declining cost of increased precision in ballistic missiles.   Within a very short time, Iran has already improved the accuracy of   its missiles from a few kilometers from the target to just a few   meters, according to Rubin.

That improvement would give Iran the ability to hit key Israeli   economic infrastructure and administrative targets, he said. “I’m   asking my military friends how they feel about waging war without   electricity,” said Rubin.

The consequences of Iranian missile strikes on administrative targets   could be even more serious, Rubin believes. “If the civilian   government collapses,” he said, “the military will find it difficult   to wage a war.”

Rubin is even worried that, if the accuracy of Iranian missiles   improves further, which he believes is “bound to happen,” Iran will   be able to carry out pinpoint attacks on Israel’s air bases, which   are concentrated in just a few places.

Some Israeli analysts have suggested that Israel could hit Iranian   missiles in a preemptive strike, but Rubin said Israel can no longer   count on being able to hit Iranian missiles before they are launched.

Iran’s longer-range missiles have always been displayed on mobile   transporter erector launchers (TELs), as Rubin pointed out in an   article in Arms Control Today earlier this year. “The message was   clear,” Rubin wrote. “Iran’s missile force is fully mobile, hence,   not pre-emptable.”

Rubin, who has argued for more resources to be devoted to the Arrow   anti-missile system, acknowledged that it can only limit the number   of missiles that get through. In an e-mail to IPS, he cited the Arrow   system’s record of more than 80 percent success in various tests over   the years, but also noted that such a record “does not assure an   identical success rate in real combat.”

The United States and Israel began in 2009 developing a new version   of the Arrow missile defense system called “Reshef” – “Flash” – or   “Arrow 3,” aimed at intercepting Iranian missiles above the   atmosphere and farther away from Israeli territory than the earlier   version of the Arrow. The new anti-missile system can alter the   trajectory of the defensive missile and distinguish decoys from real   missile reentry vehicles.

Until last November, the Arrow 3 system was not expected to become   operational until 2015. And that plan was regarded by U.S. Missile   Defense Agency (MDA) as probably too ambitious, because such a system   would normally take a decade from conception to deployment.

But Xinhua news agency reported in November that Israeli Air Force   officials said they expected Arrow 3 to become operational by mid-2013, cutting even that abbreviated timeline for development of the   system in half.

Nevertheless, the ability of the Arrow 3 system to shoot down an   incoming missile still has not been announced, although an Israeli   official said Mar. 1 that such a test would take place after the   meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

In December 2008, Western intelligence sources were reported by   Israel’s Ynet News as saying the improved version of the Shahab 3   missile had gone into production earlier that year and that Iran was   believed to be able to produce 75 of the improved missiles annually.

Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, then IDF chief of staff, told a visiting   Congressional delegation in November 2009 that Iran already had 300   missiles capable of hitting Israeli targets, according to a U.S.   State Department cable released by WikiLeaks.

Those reports suggest that Iran now has roughly 450 missiles that can   reach Israel, half of which are improved models with much greater   precision. Even if only one-fifth of those missiles get through   Israel’s missile defenses, Israeli cities could be hit by at least   100, most of which are able to hit targets with relative accuracy.

The Netanyahu government has sought to minimise the threat of Iranian   retaliation for an Israeli strike against Iran in part by likening   war with Iran to those fought against Hezbollah and Palestinian   rockets in recent years, which have resulted in relatively few   Israeli civilian casualties.

That was the message that Israeli military officials conveyed to the   Israeli news media after an escalation of violence between the IDF   and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza earlier this month.

Columnist Zvi Barel of Haaretz speculated on Mar. 11 that the purpose   of the escalation, provoked by the IDF assassination of Zuhair al-  Qaisi, the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committee in   Gaza, was to show the Israeli public that Israeli missile defense   system could protect the population against rockets that the IDF   linked to Iran.

Barel went even further. “After Iron Dome demonstrated its 95 percent   effectiveness,” he wrote, “there is no better proof to Israel’s   citizens that they will not suffer serious damage following an   assault on Iran.”

The success of the Iron Dome against short-range rockets from Gaza is   irrelevant, however, to what could be expected from a relatively   untested Arrow system against Iranian ballistic missiles aimed at   Israeli targets.

  1. #1 by equalizer on March 30, 2012 - 11:03 pm

    Don’t ya just love the false sense of security…………

  2. #2 by Jim on March 31, 2012 - 1:18 am

    450 missiles that can accurately hit Israel? Finally, some good news. I think Israel is bluffing though; they’re afraid to pull anything without their lap dog, the USA. Even if we were to support them, they would still be on the receiving end, and so might be our carriers. Hell, Israel would probably sink the Enterprise herself!

  3. #3 by Jim on March 31, 2012 - 1:20 am

    Boy, I’d rather punch netanyahoo in the face as hard as I could than to spend the night with Playboy’s Miss April! Ha! (Well, your priorties change as you get older)

  4. #4 by Ingrid B on March 31, 2012 - 4:16 am

    War is all they think about, talk about, war is all they know..
    I want to be there, to see the superior smiles wiped off parasitic faces..
    I also want to see Jim punch Netanyahoo on the face..

  5. #5 by Markschock on March 31, 2012 - 11:39 pm

    Iran has the Russian S-300 and most probably the recent S-400 ,that’s enough to make Iran’s airspace a very dangerous place for any enemy flying thing….USA’s intelligence are aware of the Iran’s ground-air defenses all jamming systems are useless against the S-400 ,any US or Israel planes,missiles or drones would be an easy target !! Russia and China are backing-up Iran.

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