Passive Defense: An Integral Part of Comprehensive Missile Defense
Passive defense means building and using bunkers and air-raid shelters. This method is credited with saving lives; most injuries and death from missile attack in Israel occur to those who were outside or in unprotected houses. This is an important and useful element of a complete missile defense strategy.
Massive reliance on shelters, however, slows or stops the ordinary flow of social and economic activity. Shelters also do not prevent economic damage, nor do they boost morale or enhance Israel's deterrence in the eyes of its enemies. Shelters are also the most expensive method for missile defense. For example, in 2007 the Israeli government allocated 480 million shekels to provide passive protection for just six hospitals!
While passive defenses are vital, a strategically effective, complete missile defense policy plan requires the addition of both attack operations and active missile defense.
Attacking Launchers - An Integral Part of Comprehensive Missile Defense
Attack operations provide an important tool for preventing missile and rocket launches from enemy territory. Air operations can be used both to look for and attack launchers, and to attack aggressors directly, destroying infrastructure. Ground operations can be used for either a limited attack, such as denying an enemy the use of a particular launch region; or a major invasion, using massive force to occupy a large region, thus preventing attacks from a broad area of enemy territory.
Attack operations work best when used as an element of a comprehensive missile defense system. When used as the only tool for missile defense other than passive defense, attack operations reveal significant limitations.
For example, air operations can be used to destroy a portion of an enemy's missile and rocket fleet but, as seen in the Second Lebanon War, cannot effectively stop attacks completely, especially for the shortest (and longest) range threats. Attacking aggressors and destroying infrastructure play an important role in limiting attacks, but are not fully effective by themselves. When air operations are the only approach available, the Air Force's ability to perform other missions also suffers, since a significant portion of the fleet is tied down to a reactive use, on the enemy's timetable.
Ground operations can achieve temporary objectives, but sustained protection requires the undesirable scenario of a massive, prolonged invasion.
Overall, attack operations are a vital element of the national response to missile and rocket threats, but cannot provide the necessary defense against the missile threat on their own. To be fully effective, attack operations must be part of a comprehensive missile defense system enabling the government to make decisions based on national security and diplomatic strategies, and implemented on timetables that are optimum for Israel, and not dictated by its enemies.