By Tim O'Shea
Monty Python isn’t known to address international policy issues, especially ones that hadn’t happened at the time of the sketch. But there’s a first time for everything. Any avid fan remembers the signature scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when a French knight hurls bizarre insults at a group of enemies since the knight was safely sheltered behind the walls of the fortress. Following an unsuccessful assault by the enemies, the knight only continues the verbal onslaught. While most focus only on the strange content, it still poses a relevant question. Will empowering somebody to a serious degree allow them to lose their fear of conflict? Fast forward a few decades and relocate to the Middle East, and the answer is yes.
The Israel – Palestine border is no stranger to conflict, and a constant source of military effort has been devoted to curbing the suffering. Following the 2006 escalation that killed 44 Israelis, projects began to attempt to mitigate the damage done by the rocket attacks constantly used by Palestinian militants. The result, debuting in March 2011, was the Iron Dome system, the child of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and United States funding. Stationed along the border, the system monitors incoming short – range rockets, predicts the trajectory to determine if they pose a threat to civilians, then fires an interceptor to destroy any dangerous missiles. Early testing indicated a 90% success rate, and systems were deployed heavily along the border following a particularly intense volume of rocket attacks in mid – November 2012. Although only 184 of 500 missile attacks were intercepted during that escalation, Israeli spokespersons still defended it as a viable defense system. So it defends Israel against enough attacks for them to retain their confidence in times of crisis. Now the question arises, is that a good thing?
Look at the record. Following the rocket attacks that would previously have caused them to take a defensive stance, Israel instead beefed up its offensive potential during last November, beginning airstrikes against targets within Palestine and preparing a ground force for an invasion. Now, as the conflict in Syria rages on, Israel has allegedly committed airstrikes against weapons depots it felt were threatening, and deployed Iron Dome systems along its border at the Golan Heights following the outrage for attacking Syria. The problem lies in that if Israel’s civilians are safe from harm, Israel has little incentive to avoid conflict that would put them in peril. Just as the French Knight had no trouble insulting his foes from behind the walls of the castle, Israel feels little fear with its citizens safe from the insurgents rockets. That’s not to say that Israelis should not be safe, but it represents a liberating factor for Israel that makes it that much less risky to pursue conflict. Additionally, Max Fisher from the Washington Post explains that the Iron Dome puts the missile issue out of sight and out of mind, allowing Israeli leaders to ignore the problem and allow the conflict to persist as a result, rather than focus on long – term solvency.
This issue should not be considered a distant issue for any U.S. citizen. Not only did the U.S. largely fund the creation of the Iron Dome, but its impact carries serious consequences for the United States. A pillar of United States foreign policy in the Middle East has been support for Israel, and allowing Israel to flaunt it’s power in the region with no fear of repercussions is not conducive to long – term stability. That’s not to say that Israeli civilians should not be protected, but they should not be done in a manner that allows Israel to commit actions it wouldn’t if its citizens weren’t safe.
With conflict between Israel and Syria heating up, the Iron Dome will play a pivotal role in determining how Israel treats the situation. With attacking from within castle walls being so easy, one can only hope that they remember that there are wider consequences than a launched missile.