Will Netanyahu Order IDF to Get Tougher in Gaza?

IDF bombs vital Hamas rocket factory in Gaza; unusual strike may signal shift to more aggressive Israeli policy during election season.

IDF sniper
Will IDF get tougher in Gaza? (Archive: IDF/Creative Commons)

As Israel enters yet another election campaign, PM Netanyahu will be hard pressed to adopt a tougher policy in Gaza. An unusual IDF strike in the Strip early Saturday signals that the army may become more aggressive in the coming weeks.

One of Netanyahu’s key campaign objectives is to convey a sense of strength to reinforce his security credentials. In parallel, the PM prefers a cautious approach in Gaza as not to trigger a war. This remained his policy in previous elections, but he will face great pressure to reconsider.    

Unlike past campaigns, this time Netanyahu’s chief rivals come from the right-wing camp. His opponents will be quick to criticize any weakness he shows in Gaza and call for forceful retaliation after rocket attacks. Failing to take stronger action could erode Netanyahu’s standing among rightist voters, who have more options to choose from.

Huge explosion in Gaza

In a possible hint of things to come, the IDF response to Friday night’s rocket attack from Gaza was more significant than usual.

The Air Force bombed a vital Hamas facility where the terror group upgraded its rocket capabilities, Ynet reported. The attack caused a huge explosion, and subsequent blasts damaged nearby factories and a children’s hospital, the report said.

Notably, Hamas deliberately set up the site in a civilian area to deter Israel from striking. Given the risk of provoking a major Hamas response or a wave of global condemnation, the IDF has indeed avoided such targets. Until last night.

It’s too early to tell whether the unusual strike signals an imminent change in the IDF’s retaliation policy. After all, Israel’s military and political leaders prefer to keep Gaza quiet while they focus on bigger threats in the north.

However, the latest attack could be an early indication that tolerance to terror from Gaza may be lower in the months before the election.

While both Israel and Hamas appear to favor an uneasy truce, volatile conditions in Gaza coupled with Israeli election calculations could spark a flareup. If this happens, the IDF and Netanyahu may conduct such war more aggressively than usual.