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By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 25, 2007


In an ideal world, the city of Sderot would have remained a small, sleepy Israeli city. In a world in which Qassam rockets are hurled almost daily into Israel by hostile neighbors, the city of Sderot has gained prominence.

Since the beginning of the Second Intifada, since October 2000, Sderot has been under siege from rocket attacks launched from Gaza. Sderot, you see, abuts Gaza. It is the easiest place inside Israel for rockets to land.

The word "sderot" translates to mean boulevards. The place called Sderot, a poor under-developed area that covers 5,000 dunam (about 1,200 acres) of land in the southern district of Israel, was declared a city in 1996. Just for the sake of comparison, the Four Seasons Hotel in Disney World covers 900 acres. The Israeli census of 2004 reported that 20,000 people lived in Sderot. That number still remains constant. It's not that the folks of Sderot enjoy the daily bombardment, it's that they have no place else to go.

Until now Israeli leaders - both military and political - have been incapable of stopping the gifts from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. In principle, of course Israelis are incensed and outraged by the almost daily bombardment of rocket attacks by terrorists from Gaza onto their soil. In practice, they have grown to become laissez faire. Nobody much cares about the people of Sderot. The 20,000 inhabitants of Sderot are an immigrant mix - mostly former Soviet immigrants living alongside the families of poor immigrants from North Africa living alongside a sizable Ethiopian community.

The good news is that finally, Israel has come up with a solution, a plan, a way to re-gift to Gaza. The other news is that the plan will not be operable for two years.

On Sunday the Israeli Security Cabinet, the inner Cabinet within the Cabinet dubbed the Kitchen Cabinet during the tenure of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, agreed to fund "Iron Dome" a $200 million project which will help protect Israeli cities from rocket attack.

In proposing the Iron Dome project Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was careful to speak of the two year time delay. Barak also explained that Iron Dome is one part of a larger defense strategy for Israel. In essence, Barak was saying that Iron Dome which will be used to defend Sderot more than any other city is being pursued only because it is part of the larger package - not because the people of Sderot need it so badly. What Barak omitted was the simple fact that after all the time and all the money, it is unlikely that Iron Dome will even be a useful defense weapon against rockets aimed from Gaza into Sderot.

Iron Dome, like all related defense weaponry, operates successfully only with minimum height and distance requirements. Because Qassam are low flying rockets, the likelihood of success in firing back at Qassams is hard to guarantee.

The system works like this: After a rocket is shot computer generated radar and laser identify its origin and trajectory. The computer figures out where the rocket is going to hit and plots the exact path of the rocket. The computer then shoots off another, much faster, missile to destroy the incoming enemy rocket. The more distance the rocket needs to travel and the higher the rocket shoots, the easier the calculation. The objective is to explode the rocket over enemy territory and not over your own land so that you reduce the number of your own potential injuries due to falling debris.

Using this technology Israel can and should be able to dispatch missiles to destroy not only the rocket launchers but also the terrorists launching their rockets into most parts of the country. Any type of defense against Qassams is difficult. The problem with the newest Qassam rockets, the rockets now being fired into Israel, is that they have a range of 10 kilometers, that is only 6.2 miles - they do not have a very high arc and they are very small targets to hit.

It sounds good at the press conference, and it is important for Israelis to know that their defense establishment is actively pursing a large, encompassing security plan, but the people of Sderot will not be much better off two years from now than they were six years ago or than they are today.

My suggestion? Hit the terrorists today. The Iron Dome and the $200 million and the two years are a long way away.

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4 June 2017 12:14 PM in Columns

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