Defense Minister Ehud Barak said this week that major Israeli population centers would be threatened by Palestinian Authority rockets if Israel relinquishes Judea and Samaria.
Israel must first acquire and implement an effective anti-missile defense system, and only then hand over control.
That, however, is no reason not to carry out such a withdrawal, according to the Defense Minister, but rather to quickly equip Israel with a defense system against attacks from those very areas.
PA control over Judea and Samaria would place Israel's major population centers, such as Tel Aviv, within Kassam rocket range, Minister Barak explained during a Tuesday meeting with IDF reserve officers. Therefore, Barak emphasized, Israel must first acquire and implement an effective anti-missile defense system, and only then hand over control of the territory to the PA. He said he saw the development of such technological defenses as a precondition to any further substantive territorial withdrawal.
Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz said prior to his departure from office that Israel had settled on the purchase of an anti-rocket defense system, but that further development and installation were several years away. In his comments on Tuesday, Barak said that faster development of a multi-layered rocket defense system is a priority for him.
Among other defenses he would like to see deployed, Defense Minister Barak noted the Arrow anti-missile system for countering long-range attacks, and Rafael's "Iron Dome" system for countering short-range attacks - such as those from the PA.
PA rockets have thus far caused havoc in the Negev areas adjacent to Gaza, most notably in the city of Sderot. Much of the area population has fled to other areas of the country, while those who remain find their lives disrupted with enemy bombardments on a regular basis. Several Kassam rockets have landed in the coastal city of Ashkelon, as well, where a strategic energy facility is currently located.
In 2006, terrorists affiliated with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction announced that they already had rockets in Samaria that have a range of two miles and that could carry 6.6 pounds of explosives. In addition to threatening Israeli cities, such rockets can effectively target Israel's main airport, Ben-Gurion International, Fatah terrorists boasted at the time.