Second time at polls: Same same but different on the security front

Immediate and farther neighbors are on a low simmer as violence spreads. All might lead the region to blow at any moment.

Pas de trêve pour Bibi (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Pas de trêve pour Bibi
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Whether Bibi or Gantz is elected as the next prime minister of Israel, the security of the nation will be at the forefront.
Five months ago, when Israel went to the polls for the first time, Gaza was front and center. It’s not much different this time except now the threats posed by Iran and Hezbollah cannot be ignored.
In April, thousands of soldiers and tanks were deployed along the border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip following long-range rocket fire toward the center of the country.
On Monday, Haaretz reported that Netanyahu had wanted to go to war with Hamas after a rocket was fired during his campaign speech in Ashdod. There weren’t thousands of soldiers along the border, and the plan was stopped at the last moment; but a war almost broke out.
As they say in Thailand: Same-same, but different.
So while Gaza remains a major concern for the next prime minister, it’s the threat posed by Iran that is front and center.
Five months ago, the Islamic Republic’s ongoing ballistic missile testing and nuclear ambitions posed a direct threat to Israel, as well as its continued entrenchment in Syria, and its support of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Hezbollah in both Lebanon and Syria.
Now it’s not only that, but also the alleged expansion of Israeli air strikes against Iranian targets in Iraq, as well as increased tension between Israel and Hezbollah and between the United States and Iran.
Any of these might lead the region to blow at any moment.
According to foreign reports, Israel has expanded air strikes against Hezbollah and Iranian targets to both Lebanon and Iraq – two fronts which five months ago had been spared from such strikes.
The IDF recently announced that Hezbollah – which has been working on an expensive and classified precision-missile project since 2013 – has been attempting to build factories to produce such missiles in south Lebanon, Beirut and the Bekaa valley, under the guidance of senior Iranian officers.
A drone attack in Beirut several weeks ago, which reportedly targeted that missile project and was attributed to Israel, has kept the IDF on high alert in the North. And rightly so, since Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile toward a military vehicle in retaliation for an air strike that killed two of its members in Syria, who were planning a “killer drone” attack against targets in northern Israel.
Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has warned that it’s not over: that he still retains the right to retaliate against Israel for the alleged attack in Beirut.
It’s never over until the fat lady sings, they say.
That’s just in Lebanon. Strikes attributed to Israel against Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in Iraq have not gone unnoticed by Tehran.
The night before the polls opened in Israel, an unidentified aircraft struck Shi’ite militia targets in the village of al-Hari near al-Bukamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border. Another unidentified aircraft struck the same area just last week. Several other strikes in Iraq, all against Shi’ite militia targets, have been blamed on Israel.
But it’s not only Israel carrying out strikes. Iran has also been accused of carrying out a drone and missile attack against Saudi Arabia’s Aramco’s oil processing facilities in Buqayq, disrupting almost half of the country’s oil capacities.
While Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed they were behind the attack, it was much more sophisticated and damaging than any previous attacks. The Houthis may be armed and financed by Iran, but it’s unlikely that the group was able to carry out such an unprecedented attack on the kingdom.
With the fear that open military conflict with Iran is still possible, Netanyahu told Army Radio on Tuesday that Israel is “well-prepared” should the country be drawn into conflict with the Islamic Republic.
Whomever Israel wakes up with as prime minister – Benny or Bibi – they will have to make important decisions for Israel’s security vis-à-vis enemies sworn to Israel’s destruction. It won’t be easy.
The flames of war might be low, but a bit more fuel and it might explode. And Israel won’t be spared from any war that might break out.