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The Operative Response
to the TBM Threat

Haim Assa
Policy Paper No. 49, From the books:

Ballistic Missiles
The Threat and
the Response

Arieh Stav (ed.),
ACPR Publishers and
Yediot Aharonot (Hebrew), 1998
ACPR Publishers and
Brassey's (UK) Ltd. (English),

The Threat of Ballistic Missiles in the
Middle East:
Active Defense and

Arieh Stav (ed.),
Sussex Academic Press and
ACPR Publishers, 2004


A conceptual confusion between strategic and operative dimensions causes Israel to neglect what is termed "the operative response". The operative response, based on the IAF, provides Israel with the critical answer to the TBM threat.

While the operative dimension entails the launching of missiles with conventional warheads on Israel, the strategic dimension refers to the launching of non-conventional warheads.

Israel's answer to the strategic dimension threat is based on deterrence. In the operative sphere, Israel's response must be based on focused operative ability, which will enable Israel's air force to operate freely on Syrian and Iraqi territory, thus allowing the IDF to extinguish the threat.

The operative response does not provide complete protection against enemy missile attacks, but it does provide a high probability that they will be stopped within a number of days of combat. A response based solely on interception, on the other hand, will not prevent the enemy from launching missiles, and will not serve as a deterring element in the operative dimension after the fighting has ended. This, in turn, will directly affect the strategic balance of Israel in relation to Syria and Iraq.

In the 1982 Lebanon War, Israel destroyed Syria's surface-to-air missiles (deployed in Lebanon). This operative dimension operation had direct strategic ramifications and served as the main reason for Syria's later equipment with TBMs.

In order to create a meaningful operative response, Israel must both significantly increase its air force's order of power and concentrate efforts on the development of original weapons systems, which will provide adequate answers to existing threats. All further investment in American ideas, such as BPI or interceptive missiles (beyond what has already been invested in the "Arrow"), constitutes a waste of funds, for the reason that the systems and strategic environments of both countries are completely different. Moreover, such weapons systems create the illusion that Israel possesses an effective response to operative threats. It is Israel's air power which must serve as its operative pillar, while interceptive capabilities (such as the "Arrow") serve as a supportive element.

It is important to note that the air response is intended to strengthen Israel's position in the face of additional threats in the Middle East, in contrast to the interceptive response, which has a single goal and is not versatile.

For the complete text of this article in Hebrew, click here.