The outgoing Kadima-Labor government's anticipated decision to release a thousand terrorists, including several dozen mass murdering terror commanders, in the framework of a ceasefire deal with Iran's Palestinian proxy Hamas is simply the latest troubling legacy that the Olmert-Livni-Barak government is leaving its successor.
Once the deal goes through, Hamas will be able to quickly expand the threat it poses to Israel. The jihadist group is already using the political legitimacy Israel is conferring on it to reestablish its unity government with Fatah. When that government is formed, the US and Europe will move hastily to recognize the terror group.
Hamas will use its increased legitimacy as a screen behind which it will expand its offensive capabilitiesThis is particularly true in the field of ballistic weapons.
We know this will happen because we have already seen what happened with the last Iranian proxy that Israel signed a ceasefire agreement with. Since Israel agreed to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and brought its war with Hizbullah to an end in August 2006, Hizbullah has reasserted its political and military control over south Lebanon and has taken over the Lebanese government. Moreover, it has massively expanded its missile capabilities not only by tripling the size of its arsenal, but by tripling the range of its missiles.
In 2006, Hizbullah's most powerful missile was a Fajr rocket with a 100 km range and a 50 kilogram warhead. Today, according to Avi Schnurr, executive director of the Israel Missile Defense Association, Hizbullah has an arsenal of Fatah-110 ballistic missiles with a range of 300 kilometers and a 600 kilogram payload.
While our media elites endlessly drone on about whether or not Likud is sufficiently "pro-peace" to satisfy Meretz and Kadima, our national discourse is ignoring the greatest threat this country faces: missiles.
Schnurr warns that today there are more missiles pointing at Israel in absolute numbers than at any other country on earth. While Israelis are properly concerned with suicide terrorism and Kassam rocket attacks, the fastest escalating threat that Israel faces come from ballistic missiles.
In addition to Iran's Hamas and Hizbullah proxies, its client state Syria has a massive missile arsenal housed in hardened silos. Syria's missiles are capable of attacking every square centimeter of Israeli territory. And of course, with its rapidly growing land and sea-based ballistic missile arsenal, Iran itself is the fastest growing missile threat facing Israel.
IN RECENT YEARS, rather than taking any immediate action to meet the growing threat, Israel has sufficed with launching long-term development programs that promise to provide protection for current threats in four to eight years. For instance, in response to Syria's medium-range missiles, Israel is developing the David's Sling anti-missile system that should be ready in eight years.
Israel could in the meantime upgrade its PAC-2 anti-missile batteries responsible for contending with medium-range missiles, with US-made PAC-3s. But the powers that be in the Ministry of Defense have decided that the PAC-3's $100 million price tag is too high.
Indeed far from installing upgrades, Israel is downgrading its existing anti-missile arsenals. According to Defense News, Israel is planning to end its involvement in the Arrow anti-missile program because it feels the maintenance costs of its Arrow batteries are too high. So as the number of missiles arrayed against it rises, Israel has decided not to bother increasing its anti-missile defenses.
Even more alarmingly, Israel has no medium-range or long-range conventional missile arsenals. Although Israel has the domestic capacity to produce both ballistic and cruise missiles, it has never bothered to build them. Consequently, its options for contending with rapidly escalating long-range threats from places like Iran are limited to manned aircraft and its suspected nuclear arsenal.
As Schnurr relates, Israel's decision to contend with the spiraling missile threat it faces by ignoring it extends to short-range missile threats as well. Israel has rejected relatively inexpensive existing anti-rocket and mortar systems that could provide immediate protection to Sderot among other places. It has preferred to leave Sderot and the Western Negev unprotected while awaiting the development of the Iron Dome system now being developed by the Ministry of Defense.
Israel does field advanced radar systems. The Green Pine radar is one of the best in the world and together with the X-Band radar system the US recently deployed in the Negev, Israel's ability to detect incoming missiles is significant. The problem is that all of Israel's radar systems are facing east – towards Iran. Last December Iran signed a strategic alliance with Eritrea that permits its Revolutionary Guards to set up bases in Eritrea, strategically located to Israel's south at the mouth of the Red Sea. Israel has no radars pointing to its south.
AFTER YEARS OF denial, today even US intelligence agencies acknowledge that Iran's ballistic missile program is part and parcel of its nuclear program. While most Israeli observers have devoted their energies to assessing the destructive capacity of a direct nuclear attack against the tiny country, and to the various delivery mechanisms – from the Shihab-3 missiles to Syrian Scuds to Hizbullah or Hamas death squads – that Iran could field against it in the event of a nuclear attack, the fact of the matter is that Iran has an indirect option for using nuclear weapons to attack Israel that would likely be more destructive than a direct nuclear attack. And it is an option that Iran can wield not only against Israel, but against every country in the world.
An electromagnetic pulse or EMP attack is an indirect nuclear attack. It has the capacity to destroy a target country's electricity grids and so revert a post-industrial, technology-based country such as Israel or the US to a pre-industrial condition. If an aggressor launches a nuclear device of whatever size and detonates it above the atmosphere and in the line of site of its target country, the x-rays and gamma rays emitted by the blast will cause an electromagnetic pulse, or wave a million times stronger than the strongest radio wave. That wave, which comes in three successive stages, will destroy a country's electrical grids and through them, its ability to function.
In 2000, concern about the EMP threat in the US caused Congress to mandate the formation of a commission comprised of the leading US experts on the issue to study it. The EMP Threat Commission's 2004 report warned that the effect an EMP attack would have on the US's national infrastructures "could be sufficient to qualify as catastrophic to the nation."
As Frank Gaffney, President of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, explained in his 2006 book War Footing, by destroying a country's electrical power systems, an EMP will destroy its economy since it will wipe out its banking system. All vehicles that operate with electronic systems – that is all vehicles made since the mid-1970s – would be rendered inoperable. Telecommunications would end. A country's ability to store food through refrigeration would end. Its ability to transport water and pump gasoline would also end.
Since almost no one would be killed in the immediate aftermath of an EMP attack, a threat of retaliation against the aggressor country would lack credibility because such an option would be politically unpalatable. But while an EMP attack would not kill many people directly, it would kill millions of people indirectly. As Gaffney notes, by wiping out a country's ability to support itself, an EMP attack would cause mass starvation and disease.
The threat of an EMP attack was not taken seriously by US military planners during the Cold War because they were concerned
with the primary Soviet threat to annihilate the US and its allies by launching several thousand nuclear warheads against them. But as nuclear and missile technology has proliferated in the post-Cold War period, and more technologically primitive countries get their hands on missiles and limited nuclear capabilities, the threat of an EMP attack as become far more acute.
In Iran's case, the mullahs have signaled clearly through both word and deed that they find the option of attacking their enemies with an EMP attack attractive. An article published in Iran's security journal Nashriyeh-e Siasi Nezami in 1999 identified an EMP attack as a way to defeat the US as a military power and as a state. Then too, as William Graham, who headed the US's EMP commission explained in an interview with World Net Daily last year, Iran is openly building the capacity to carry out such an attack. Last year, Iran described a ship-launched test of its Shihab-3 missile in the Caspian Sea as "successful" in spite of the fact that like an EMP, the missile detonated in mid-launch.
More disturbingly, Iran's successful satellite launch earlier this month makes clear that the mullahs now have the technological capacity to effectively wipe out Western civilization. Three to five nuclear bombs of any size, launched into space on satellites and detonated above the US, Europe and Asia would send Western civilization back to the 19th century. Last week Iran announced it is building seven more satellites. Yet rather than recognize that once its nuclear arsenal is online Iran will represents a threat to all nations, the West ignored the significance of the satellite launch.
The US's EMP commission's report explained that to defend against such an attack, it is necessary to build redundant electrical systems and have difficult-to-build replacement parts like turbines on hand to replace ones destroyed by such an attack. Since the report was published, the US has made some modest progress in that direction.
THIS IS NOT the case, unfortunately in Israel. Although as a small country, Israel has the capacity to replicate its systems relatively cheaply and quickly, the outgoing government has paid no attention whatsoever to the growing threat. As a consequence, were Iran to attack Israel with an EMP attack, Israel would be rendered defenseless and at the mercy of Iran and the Arab world. For their part, they would undoubtedly be tempted to invade the Jewish state to finish what the Iranians started.
Through IMDA, Schnurr is trying to raise awareness of the growing missile threat and recommend ways to contend with it in the Defense Ministry as well as in ministries that control critical infrastructures. He has had some modest success, but to date, no one has taken any action.
With coalition negotiations only now beginning, it is hard to believe that soon we will be led by leaders more interested in contending with the threats we face as a country. But such a government is apparently on its way. In light of the growing conventional and unconventional missile threats facing us, one of the Netanyahu government's first actions in office must be to review and rapidly expand Israel's offensive and defensive missile systems, and quickly move to replicate critical national infrastructures to defend against EMP attack.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.