How Israel's National Security Deals with Continuing Terror Threats

In recent decades, Israel has found itself confronted with two main threats to its national security: namely, suicide bombings and surface-to-surface missiles from terrorist groups Hezb'allah and Hamas.  Israel has been largely successful confronting these threats due to its sophisticated weaponry and strategy. 

After the Second Intifada began at the end of September 2000, terrorists began to infiltrate Israel and launched suicide bombings on buses, pizza parlors, cafés, and discotheques throughout the country.  Many of the suicide bombers emanated from the West Bank.  The suicide bombing during a Passover Seder on March 27 in Netanya, at the Park Hotel, killed thirty and injured over 130.  One thousand two hundred and four people have been killed by Palestinian violence and terrorism since September 2000.  In 2001, there were eighty-five deaths due to terror attacks; in 2002, two-hundred twenty deaths; 2003, one-hundred forty deaths; and in 2004, fifty-five deaths.

But by 2004, there marked a steady decline -- mostly due to Israel's counter-terrorism strategy.

On March 29, 2002, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, the largest-scale military operation into the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.  It lasted until May 3, 2002.  It involved placing PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, seen as a tacit instigator of the terror, under siege in his Ramallah compound.  This was after Arafat had been involved in peace talks, though he tacitly supported terrorism to groups like the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Tanzim.  The Israeli Defense Forces led an incursion into the six largest cities in the West Bank and their surrounding localities, where many of the terrorists lived.  The mission of Operation Defensive Shield was to identify and to remove the key actors within these groups, and to disturb their line of production from financing to recruitment, all the while disrupting the training and transferring of a potential terrorist to his target.

The IDF both apprehended the terrorists and gathered meaningful intelligence.  This improved intelligence had the immediate effect of curbing suicide bombings in the ensuing period, though it did not decrease the attempts altogether.

Today, many terrorist groups rely on surface-to-surface air systems.  Some deployment of ground forces may soon be necessary to gather all necessary intelligence to eliminate these key actors, but technical defense solutions like the Arrow and Iron Dome  have also proven necessary defense methods.  The security fence between Jerusalem and the West Bank helps to enhance Israel's security, creating a buttress to keep terrorists out.

But the rise of non-conventional threats required a change in the Israeli security concept, as the old doctrine was designed to meet the enemy between armies, while ballistic missiles created long-distance threats.

The 1991 Gulf War exposed Israel's vulnerability to the ballistic missile threat.  At the time, Israel was bombarded by forty-one Scud missiles from Iraq.  Israel did not retaliate, fearing that the U.S. coalition (which featured some Arab states) would collapse.

Just a few years earlier, the United States and Israel began the military defense project called the Arrow.  This, as part of an anti-ballistic missile system, was originally intended to intercept long-range missiles during flight for these types of threats.  This kind of interception specifically is also called salvo-interception.  The components of the Arrow system contain a huge radar system built to detect missiles, and a fire control center to compute the direction of the missile; thus, the system calculates the perfect interception point.  

The Arrow is able to destroy both missile and launcher using unmanned vehicles for detection and smart bombs for elimination.  In the Lebanon War of 2006, Israel sought to destroy Hezb'allah's long-range rocket launchers.  Israel has also devised the Iron Dome, a mobile defense system deterring short-range missiles with a range of four to seventy kilometers.  The Iron Dome can intercept missiles during flight and a few seconds after launch, though only after having calculated that said missiles will hit built-up terrain.  The system's radar detects the rocket's launch and tracks the trajectory, thereby calculating the expected hit point.  Then an interceptor missile is fired to detonate the rocket far from the expected impact area.  (If, however, the missile is detected as heading for anywhere other than a designated area, the rocket is allowed to land.)

Technical defense solutions like the Arrow, the Iron Dome, and the construction of the security fence between Jerusalem and the West Bank have significantly increased Israel's security and shown that the Israeli Doctrine -- despite no official updates since the 1950s -- is flexible enough to handle growing threats.