The Arrow missile system has already succeeded in pushing Iran to shift its military tactics.
By Yonah Jeremy Bob, JPOST FEBRUARY 19, 2020 11:10
Defense minister Moshe Arens wth Israeli Air Force personnel at the Paris Air Show in 1999 with the Israel Aircraft Industry Arrow missile. (photo credit: YA’ACOV SA’AR/GPO)
In the face of a potential Iranian nuclear weapon, “only the Arrow missile-defense system guarantees Israeli survival,” Dov Raviv, former head of the Arrow project at Israel Aircraft Industries, said Tuesday.
“We cannot dismiss a leader of a country who says it will destroy Israel… Iran has said this explicitly,” he said at a conference of the Association for Israeli Military History on the occasion of the publication of a new book by another stalwart of Israel missile defense, Uzi Rubin.
While Israel has many military and diplomatic tools to try to stop Iran’s drive to obtain a nuclear weapon, if it does not succeed, missile defense will be its last line of defense, Raviv said.
Earlier at the conference, former IDF missile-defense commander Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Eitan Yariv said: “Some of the authority judging whether we can use our offense [capabilities against adversaries] is sitting in Washington, DC, and some in Moscow.”
He was referring to the fact that Israel often restrains itself from using military force in Syria, Iraq or other countries based on the wishes of the US and Russia.
In contrast, Yariv said: “Our defense is totally dependent on us… We can defend ourselves by ourselves” and do not need outside approvals even from other global powers.
Association for Israeli Military History chairman Col. (res.) Beni Michaelson opened the conference by describing the evolving rocket threats that Israel must contend with.
Israeli missile defense, such as the Arrow missile system, had already succeeded in pushing Iran to shift its military tactics, he said.
If for years Iran was focused almost exclusively on developing medium-range ballistic missiles to fire at Israel from its own territory, the Arrow convinced the Islamic Republic to try alternate tactics to threaten Jerusalem, Michaelson said.
“They are trying to shorten the range [for attacking Israel], so they can fire more rockets” from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, he said.
In other words, Michaelson argued that Tehran’s decision to try to move its rockets to those proxy areas was actually an acknowledgment that their medium-range ballistic missiles would be an insufficient threat to Israel because the Arrow would likely shoot them down.
Rubin wrapped up the conference, narrating a long, frustrating history in which he, Raviv and others won financial support for Israel’s missile-defense program over repeated objections by the IDF that it was a waste of funds.
He said he discussed with IDF officers the possibility of rockets being fired at Israel after the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War in which rockets were used heavily.
“They thought I was crazy,” Rubin said in frustration.
He said he had “worked on three large defense projects. All of them eventually got awards. And the IDF initially opposed all of them!”
Rubin said a regular IDF retort to reject funding for missile defense was: “There are things for which it is better to spend money,” or that if the Defense Ministry wanted to spend money to effectively save lives in new ways without wasting funds on missile defense, they should invest in safer streets to avoid car accidents.
As an example of how long IDF opposition dragged out progress, he said it “took 19 years until the IDF approved funding… and we started to get pictures [from space]” relating to his work on classified aspects of Israel’s space program.
A simple way of understanding a recent complex graph-filled presentation by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi was to reaffirm the old military proverb that the best defense was a good offense, Rubin said.
Though Rubin said he agrees a good offense can often avoid the need to defend as much and reduce the number of victims on the home front, he said it was critical that he and others succeeded in convincing top political leaders that this was not enough and that missile defense was also necessary.
Rubin credited current Labor Party leader and former defense minister Amir Peretz for pressing the IDF in 2006 about why it only had missile defense against long-range powerful rockets but not against short-range smaller rockets.
Peretz’s support was helpful to eventually get backing to move forward with Iron Dome, which has now protected Israel from Hamas in multiple rounds of fighting, he said.
Bob, JPOSTDespite IDF opposition and a slow start, the Defense Ministry and various creative innovators and visionaries with defense backgrounds have propelled Israel to be one of the world’s leader in missile defense, Rubin said.