March 23, 2019

Rockets on Tel Aviv: 6 Short Comments

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu REUTERS/Amir Cohen
  1. The event: Two rockets fired from Gaza in Tel Aviv. No one was hurt. The prime minister does what prime ministers do. Security consultations. The night is still young.
  2. Gaza is tense: Gazans demonstrate against Hamas, because of the dire economic situation. Hamas negotiates with Israel, through mediators, as it searches to ease the restrictions on its activity. Israel is willing to accept a solution that better Gaza’s situation — as long as this solution does not give Hamas more power to launch attacks against Israel.
  3. Who fired the rockets?: Maybe Hamas, to divert the attention away from its own failures. It is less likely to see demonstrations against Hamas when Israel is launching a counter attack in Gaza.
  4. What could happen next? Israel must and will respond harshly to the attack. Then the ball is in the other court. Hamas can absorb the counterattack and let the tension subside. Or it can counter the counterattack by firing more rockets. If this happens, a war becomes more likely.
  5. Israel is in the midst of election season: In such times, politicians cannot look weak or hesitant. Starting tonight, Gaza becomes a main campaign issue. The ultra-right is going to argue that a tougher policy is necessary. The center is going to argue that Benjamin Netanyahu failed – its leaders will also be tempted to call for a tougher policy. Netanyahu will have a dilemma: Does he remain moderate and cautious- as was his habit since the end of the 2014 war. Maybe. But for both operational and political reasons he might decide that the time to escalate is now.
  6. For now, all predictions are off: No one expected to see rockets in the Tel Aviv skies tonight. No one knows if this was a short eruption before the calm, or a beginning of a longer cycle of violence.

Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.