Will Israel's "Iron Dome" help bring peace?

Known as "Iron Dome," Israel's new defense system has been called "a game-changer" because of its ability to destroy enemy rockets in the air

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Bob Simon: And you're the commander?

Shai Kogensky: I'm the commander. I am 32.

Bob Simon: You're 32.

Shai Kogensky: Yeah.

Bob Simon: So you're the old man here.

Shai Kogensky: Yes, I'm the old man.

When Hamas launches a rocket, Iron Dome's radar detects it, and its computers calculate where it will land. If it's headed for an empty field, Iron Dome won't waste an interceptor on it. But if it's going towards a populated area, the system will figure out the best place to intercept the rocket, so that the falling shrapnel won't do any harm. Iron Dome will then ask one of those kids for permission to fire.

Bob Simon: So you've got three-to-five seconds to decide--

Shai Kogensky: Yes, because--

Bob Simon: --whether or not to intercept it. It-- and you have to do something. The soldier has to do something. It will not be automatic.

Shai Kogensky: No, no, no, it's not automatic. The soldiers are intercepting the rockets. They have to make a decision.

Bob Simon: This is the Iron Dome interceptor. Once it's launched, it has a mind of its own, and this is the mind right here -- the brains. It guides the missile very close to the enemy rocket and explodes, blowing the rocket out of the sky and keeping it far away from an Israeli town.

A rocket fired from the Gaza strip will take just seven to 15 seconds to land in the Israeli town of Sderot. The Israelis say Iron Dome has knocked down many of those rockets.

The rocket scientists who invented iron dome can't -- for security reasons -- show their faces on camera. But Didi Ya'ari, the CEO of Rafael, the lead manufacturer of the system, is under no such restriction.

As he showed us what the inside of an Iron Dome command center looks like, he told us more fire was directed at southern Israel during the eight-day battle in November than during all of Israel's previous wars.

Bob Simon: People have called the development of the Iron Dome a "game changer." Does that mean anything?

Didi Ya'ari: It does. Definitely. You know, people go to work. Harbors are working. Cars are moving, trains are moving. Nothing stops. And still, you have circumstances where in the past you would consider as full war.

Israel was ready for full war. Seventy-five thousand soldiers and hundreds of armored vehicles were called up ready for an invasion of Gaza. It didn't happen.

BOB SIMON: Is it because of Iron Dome that the Army didn't have to invade Gaza?

Didi Ya'ari: By all means without Iron Dome we'll-- we were inside Gaza, you know, after two days.

Bob Simon: And the casualties on both sides would have been higher?

Didi Ya'ari: Yeah.

While Iron Dome worked well against Hamas's rockets, no one knows how it would do in the North, against Hezbollah's larger, more sophisticated arsenal. And there's expense. Each Iron Dome interceptor is believed to cost more than $75,000. A Hamas rocket can be built for as little as $500.

Bob Simon: What if the next time around, Hamas fires a hundred at once, or 500, and half of them are--