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Israel Under Attack

Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By LEE SMITH
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In 2012, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu put 40,000 ground troops on the border to show Hamas how far he was willing to go to get a ceasefire. This time around he may have to go further to check a Hamas campaign that is qualitatively different from that of 2012. Some Israeli analysts, like former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin, argue that a ground operation is “necessary, almost essential” to uncover the tunnel networks, which may prove impermeable to air attacks.

If Hamas is pacing its missile fire, it means they’re in it for the long haul. If they’re crossing red lines by firing missiles at Dimona as well as Ben Gurion airport, it means they’re going all out. The question is why.

Some analysts point to likely Iranian involvement— indeed use of the long-range M-302, not previously in the arsenal of Hamas, underscores that suggestion. It’s true that Hamas’s relations with Iran have been somewhat cooler since they fell out over the Syrian civil war (Hamas sided with their Sunni co-religionists; Tehran has thrown its full weight behind the Assad regime). But the Iranians have a lot of cards to play in Gaza, including Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions, as well as Hamas itself. As Israeli analyst Shimon Shapira commented recently, “Iran is more than capable of going over the head of Hamas’s political leadership and arming its military commanders directly.”

If Iran is not in fact driving the campaign, then Hamas may be putting on a demonstration for Tehran of how helpful it can be to the Islamic Republic. With Hezbollah tied down in Syria fighting alongside Assad, Hamas is more useful to Iran than ever—especially since Hamas is now in possession of long-range missiles capable of striking anywhere inside Israel, making it another tool of Iranian deterrence should the Israelis consider striking Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities.

In other words, the strategic picture of the Middle East hasn’t changed one bit. As the Obama White House seeks to sign a permanent deal with Iran by July 20, the key threat not only to Israel but to American interests remains .  .  . Iran. Too bad the Obama administration can’t come to grips with that reality.

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