Last week Congress authorized an additional $205 million in military aid to Israel to help them build up a short-range missile defense system. This defense system, Iron Dome, was created following the 2006 war with Hizballah, during which time Hizballah fired somewhere around 4,000 rockets into Israel. The system was designed to use guided missiles to shoot down mortars and rockets from Southern Lebanon and Gaza. President Obama proposed the plan last week, asserting his administration’s “unshakeable commitment” to Israel’s security.
But is this missile defense system merely for defensive purposes? A number of scholars and journalists have suggested that Israel may be preparing to wage another war against Hizballah. And in April, King Abdullah of Jordan, addressing Congress, warned that a war between Israel and Hizballah is “imminent”.
The question is why would Israel choose to incite war with Hizballah only a few years after the disastrous war in 2006? Although Israel claims to have won the war in 2006, many scholars have argued that this conflict shook the confidence of the Israeli military establishment. While the Israeli Air Force was able to destroy most of Hizballah’s long-range rockets, they had more trouble locating and destroying Hizballah’s short-range arsenals.
And Hizballah appears to have re-armed since then. Not only is it believed that they have restocked their supplies of long and short term rockets, but it is also believed that they have received shipments of SCUD missiles from Syria. In April, Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Syria of transporting sophisticated ballistic missile technology to Lebanon. Although Syria has denied the accusations, the Obama administration has taken these warnings seriously, calling in the Syrian Ambassador for a number of meetings.
Could Israel be planning a pre-empitve strike to destroy these suspected SCUD missiles? Or is it hoping to restore its pride and image in the Middle East? Could the purchase of this missile defense system be another sign that Israel is preparing for an offensive? Could they be not only a defensive shield against rocket attacks, but a layer of protection in case of war?