Hebrew media insists that something went very wrong for Israel in Operation Pillar of Cloud. Most Hebrew analysts are blaming Netanyahu. Most polls show disgust towards the Prime Minister, who is being portrayed as too soft and indecisive. Most articles portray the Iron Dome antimissile system as "Hero of the Hour" while criticizing the Israeli Air Force. The role of Egypt in ending the conflict is overlooked. The recruitment of over 50,000 IDF reservists, who eventually weren't deployed, is not mentioned anymore. Israel is showing such a strong combination of a bad memory and poor analytic capabilities, than one must ask oneself whether this is an intentional tactic aimed at disguising the actual date of a ground attack on Gaza.
Stalling the IDF
On March 29, 2002, Operation Defensive Shield started with an incursion of the IDF into Ramallah, placing Yasser Arafat under siege in the Mukata, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority. The IDF recruited its reservists planning to re-occupy Palestinian cities in the West Bank. Brigade 310 (the Jerusalemite Brigade, number changed to 16 after the operation) was aimed to enter both Ramallah and Bethlehem. The entry to the latter was delayed due to the sensitivity of the Church of the Nativity. It was decided to delay the deployment of the army until a force from the Shaldag Commando (Kingfisher) could block the entrance to the church. For some unclear reason, the commandos didn't appear, Palestinian forces obtained refuge in the church and the infamous siege began. The IDF is not built to work in such a fashion. Sieges stall the economy supporting it, and drain its limited resources. No operational plans of the IDF, either the ones dealing with invading armies (Metzuda) or the ones dealing with a Palestinian insurrection (Sdeh Kotzim), take long waits into account.
Iron Dome in Action
Iron Dome in Action
By any account, Defensive Shield was a larger operation than Pillar of Cloud. Yet, it was carried out mainly by one large territorial division manned by reservists. That means slightly over 10,000 people. In Operation Pillar of Cloud, Hebrew media reported that over 50,000 reservists were waiting to enter Gaza. This means that the entire reserve forces of the IDF Southern Command had been recruited, and then stalled. Considering that Israel has no sensitivities in Gaza, this is odd. As commented in an earlier article of this series, this was done openly, with pictures of soldiers waiting to enter Gaza flooding the media. The delayed deployment was harmful, yet, Netanyahu didn't give the order. "Hold me back!" shouted Netanyahu while waiting for the international community to stop the operation. He achieved that, apparently against his own interests.
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On several occasions, I commented on Israel's manipulation of its antimissile systems interception data; this is the result of the systems being aimed for export, mainly to South Korea and Singapore, but also due to the generous American support of the development process. The manipulation is straightforward; the system is deployed exclusively where it has optimal interception conditions. This leads to what in Measurement Theory is known as a bad sampling of the data, which becomes unrepresentative of the overall population of the studied event. I avoided quoting the numbers appearing in the Hebrew media for this reason. With their foiled magic, they claim the interception rate is 90%. Yet, in yesterday's article (Pillar of Cloud ends Unfinished) I provided the complete data (courtesy of the IDF), showing that 700 missiles out of the 1,000 fired by Hamas hit Israel. This amounts to a 70% failure of Iron Dome.
Iron Dome | Israel Manipulates Statistics
I can imagine an Israeli general jumping on his chair after reading this and beginning a tirade against me. "Iron Dome was not deployed in the sites that were hit!" He shouts to the silent computer screen. "You are a demagogue," he continues. Yet, he is wrong. One of the characteristics of antimissile weapons is their being non-symmetric. Building missiles is much cheaper than the antimissile system. A Qassam rocket costs less than $100 while an Iron Dome antimissile is evaluated at $50,000 per unit. Invariably, there would be more missiles than antimissiles. It is an intrinsic characteristic of this type of events and thus must be taken into account in the sampling. Luckily enough, an event including 1,000 missiles can be easily analyzed using the entire event without recurring to statistical sampling techniques. Iron Dome has an operative 70% failure rate. My dear general, Iron Dome is a failure.
Netanyahu's Next War
Eventually, Operation Pillar of Cloud looks like a distraction event. It allowed Israel to test Iron Dome in real time. The IDF generals can analyze data as well as I can, even if they publish misinformation afterwards. 30% Interception may be good enough to defend Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, especially after most of the Palestinian long-range rocket arsenal was destroyed. The IDF will shoot three or four antimissiles at every rocket aimed at these targets. That was the number the IDF needed to know. The recruitment event was an exercise. The IDF knows now how many of its reservists are ready to appear and fight. This has been a problematic issue since the Yom Kippur War. Unluckily, this data won't be disclosed.
Benjamin Netanyahu has been Prime Minister for a long time. He was aware that unless he obtained a decisive ground victory over Hamas, he would be perceived as a loser by his fanatic electorate. Hence, Operation Pillar of Cloud cannot be the real event allowing him to win the upcoming elections. Cloud of Pillar was a provocation, aimed at forcing Hamas to attack. Then, Netanyahu will be ready to perform a ground attack in better conditions. War is still ahead of us.