When Benjamin Netanyahu called for an enforcement of a red line in regards to Iran’s nuclear project, he didn’t think the line could be as close to him as 25km, or indeed this close to Dimona nuclear site. The downing of the unidentified drone over Israel last Saturday marked that red line. It occurred less than two weeks after Iran’s announcement of the deployment of a domestic-built reconnaissance drone with a 24-hour flight capability.
The general consensus by media and analysts has reasonably pointed the finger towards Iran or Hezbollah for launching the drone, as well as to the failure of the Israeli air defense and surveillance systems.
It also showed complete unpreparedness by a country publicly pushing for war with another; who knew Israel didn’t already have Patriot missile batteries near Haifa, and would have to wait for a breach to relocate them?
Although Hezbollah has attempted to fly balloons or other drones over Israel before, this is by far the most far-reaching and serious attempt. The owner of the drone knew that flying through Gaza would be the best way to enter Israel. It also managed to fly for 20 minutes inside Israeli airspace, and had to be shot down to be stopped.
Israel is not at a loss as to how to respond; after all, there has been a tangible breach of its “sovereignty,” but from an unknown source—something it has not seen before.
Many fear that the worst damage of the incident is that it shows that the Israelis are less sophisticated than their enemies in Iran, who are better at recycling these products, as shown by their attempt to build a copy of a recently captured US drone. Iran did not have to smash a hostile drone into pieces to stop it; they can manage that without a scratch.
This post was first published on NOW Lebanon Blog on 10th October 2012 (excluding the photo). Cartoon by Khaldoun Gharaiba.