Israel’s eight-day Gaza offensive was a dry run for any future armed confrontation with Iran, U.S. and Israeli officials told The New York Times.
“In Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel was not confronting Gaza, but Iran,” Israeli ambassador to the U.S. States and military historian Michael B. Oren told the Times.
The first strike of the conflictmay have been Oct. 22 when fighter jets bombed an Iranian arms factory in Sudan. Israel has been mum about the strike, but everyone from Sudan to the U.N. believes four Israeli stealth jets targeted the factory because it was used to supply arms — including Fajr rockets like those fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem — to Hamas in Gaza.
Learning and reducing the capabilities of Iran’s surrogates — Hamas and (especially) Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon — is important to Israel because those groups would contribute to the 200,000 rockets and missiles that could strike Israel during any military confrontation with Iran.
And as Moran Stern wrote in The Atlantic, the operation also went toward preparing Israel’s military and populace for consequences that would follow a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Israel’s Iron Dome, partially funded by the U.S., intercepted 84 percent of the 1,506 rockets fired from Gaza that were targeted, but it wouldn’t deter Hezbollah’s medium-range rockets or Iran’s long-range missiles because it is designed to counter only short-range rockets launched from 50 miles of less.
“The general lesson is that missile defense is effective, it can work,” said Uzi Rubin, the former head of Israel’s missile defense program, told The Washington Post. “But Iron Dome has nothing to do with threats from Iran.”
To that end Israel is developing a medium-range missile defense system, called David’s Sling, which was tested in computer simulations during the recent American-Israeli exercise (i.e. Austere Challenge), and has fielded a long-range system called Arrow.
“Nobody has really had to manage this kind of a battle before,” Jeffrey White, a defense fellow for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Times. “There [would be] lots of rockets coming in all over half the country, and there are all different kinds of rockets being fired.”
Operation Pillar of Cloud likely decimated Hamas’ arsenal of 10,000 to 12,000 rockets, but the offensive didn’t come close to the firepower and strategy needed to attack Iran.
What it did was bring the U.S. deeper into the mix: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helpedprevent a Israeli ground invasion, three U.S. warships were sent to Israel and President Barack Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the U.S. would intensify efforts to help Israel address the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.