Defense Minister Ehud Barak said this week that he did not consider Iran’s nuclear program an “existential issue” because “Israel is strong.” Part of that strength lies in its own nuclear capabilities — never acknowledged but widely presumed to exist — and part lies in the assumption that the United States would stand behind the country if it came under attack. But it also rests in the calculation that enough of the country’s air bases and other military facilities would survive a first strike that it would be able to effectively retaliate.
The sort of deterrence — guaranteed retaliation — that the United States and Russia once achieved by deploying nuclear warheads in submarines and keeping bombers aloft is what Israel is striving for through its antimissile systems.
Iran “is radical, but radical does not mean irrational,” said Rubin, the private defense consultant. “They want to change the world, not commit suicide.”
With the Arrow system in operation and the Iron Dome due for deployment next year, Israel “has something to stabilize the situation: the knowledge that an attack will fail,” said Uzi Rubin, a private defense consultant who ran Israel’s missile defense program in the 1990s. Iran, he said, could not be assured of a successful first strike against Israel, while groups such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon may find one of their favored tactics undermined.
Israeli officials say they see systems like Iron Dome as crucial to the country’s military planning, both by preventing damage and diminishing the need to retaliate.