The resumption of Gaza rocket attacks on Israel at this time is no coincidence. Iran’s proxy, Islamic Jihad, is trying (among other things) to affect the results of Israel’s March 2 election. More specifically, it looks like Iran is trying to get rid of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Iran is the ultimate chess player: crafty, patient and always thinking ahead. It likely wanted to attack Israel from Gaza since the killing of its top general, Qasem Soleimani. But the Iranians waited for the right time, which is now.
By creating mayhem in Gaza, Iran aims to achieve two key objectives. One is to foil truce efforts between Israel and Hamas. The second is to interfere in the Israeli election and hurt Netanyahu right before the vote.
[After posting this, Arab affairs expert Shimrit Meir estimated that Islamic Jihad is working on Iran’s orders in an effort to completely disrupt the election. That would certainly be a major achievement for Tehran]
And so, Islamic Jihad tried to carry out a few attacks in recent days, hoping to draw Israel into a battle. Yesterday it finally worked, after the IDF killed two terrorists on the Gaza border (and following an unpleasant bulldozer incident). Now, the rockets are flying and southern Israel is in bomb shelters.
Sensitive Time for Netanyahu
This puts Netanyahu in a tough spot. The prime minister hates wars and knows how risky they are. But he also hates losing elections, and the latest flareup comes at a particularly sensitive time.
The rockets follow long weeks of incendiary balloon attacks on southern Israel (and long months of restrained Israeli responses to Gaza terror). Netanyahu looks weak as he clings to the hope of securing a truce.
So far, it looks like both Israel and Islamic Jihad are careful not to cross each other’s red lines. The terrorists are limiting their attacks to southern Israel, and IDF bombs cause lots of damage but few casualties. However, red lines can be tricky and shift unexpectedly.
For Iran, the ideal scenario is to avoid a major Israeli operation in Gaza (while inflicting major PR damage on Netanyahu). The PM has similar aims, minus the PR damage. But both sides may be willing to go further than usual because the stakes are so high.
I recently wrote that terrorists may end up deciding the election results. If the fighting continues and escalates, this will become a real possibility. For now, we watch and wait.