Israel has faced many crises since its establishment as a modern state. In fact, it faced war at the hands of neighboring Arab countries immediately upon declaring independence from British control on May 14, 1948.
In the 73 years since, conflict and strife have recurred. Fortunately, so has progress, from the Camp David Accords forging peace between Israel and Egypt in 1978 to the Abraham Accords of last year establishing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.
Now Israel faces another crisis. Militants based in the Gaza Strip have fired thousands of rockets into Israel. These rockets fall upon civilians in their homes and on the streets. As of May 17, ten people have been killed in the attacks, and Israelis are forced to seek refuge repeatedly in bomb shelters. The Israeli Defense Force has responded with airstrikes.
The Gaza Strip is controlled by Hamas, a militant organization that denies Israel’s very right to exist. Tensions between Hamas and Israel have led to broader hostilities repeatedly over the years, but the current conflict is the most serious since 2014.
Self-defense is the right of a country. It is a primary reason why countries have governments at all. Israel is no exception, and as a friend and ally of the United States, Israel deserves the support of the U.S. government during its time of need.
American-Israeli partnership has already demonstrated its importance to saving lives in the region during this crisis. As Hamas launches rockets at Israel, many of them are intercepted by Iron Dome, a defense system that uses targeting systems and radar to identify and missiles to destroy incoming rockets targeted at sensitive areas, including population centers.
While missile defense has long been an objective of U.S. military policy, systems such as President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative aimed at intercepting long-range missiles. Israel, however, is a small country just over 70 miles across at its widest, and adversaries such as Hamas border it. Defense systems thus need to protect against rockets fired at much shorter ranges. An Israeli company took the lead on developing Iron Dome, but the United States provided financial support. Our country in return later gained access to proprietary Iron Dome technology, and parts for the system are produced here in the United States.
Iron Dome came online in 2011 and proved successful. During a conflict in 2012, it intercepted 85 percent of 400 rockets fired at Israel. The 2014 hostilities with Hamas once again saw Iron Dome successfully play a major role in keeping Israelis safe, with accuracy apparently around 90 percent. The U.S.-Israeli partnership produced a system that keeps Israelis safe and reduces the outbreak of more widespread violent conflict.
The present conflict has tested Iron Dome once more. The night sky over Israel lights up with rockets and interceptors. Hamas has attempted to overwhelm the defense system by firing barrages of rockets quickly. Although Iron Dome has largely risen to the challenge, Hamas’ current tactics highlight a potential vulnerability in the system.
More broadly, the current crisis also highlights why efforts to secure peace between Israel and its neighbors are important, and why the achievements of the Trump Administration in the Abraham Accords were remarkable.
Critics of the Trump Administration liked to point out that parties to the agreement such as the UAE and Bahrain were not at war with Israel. They ignore the fact that anti-Israel groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah depend on support from countries in the region, and engaging more of Israel’s neighbors dries up support for these militants to conduct their cruel crusades against civilians.
The most important state backer of anti-Israel violence is Iran. Any Middle East policy that respects our historic partnership with Israel must not enable Iran to devote more of its resources to violence against Israel.
At the time of this writing, no ceasefire has been agreed upon, but I hope to see one soon. Until then, it is time to stand with Israel. As it fights enemies that deny its right to exist, the United States must be clear in condemning Hamas and supporting our ally.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, call my Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405; my Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671 or via email at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.