Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama studiously avoided the “P” word during their conversations and statements in Washington last week as well as in their speeches before the AIPAC policy conference. As if on cue, with Bibi back home, Israel attacked a major Islamic terrorist in Gaza by air and now for four consecutive days there have been rockets flying into Israel in retaliation; with Israeli responses as well. Clearly, the Palestinian issue is fine and well in the Middle East and has not gone away. Meanwhile the world contemplates tightening sanctions on Iran and the possibility of further IAEA inspections and possible multi-lateral talks with the Iranian regime on its nuclear program.
Hamas appears now to be moving very quickly to engage Egyptian good offices to restore quickly the previous cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. It seems that the potential attack which Israel had disrupted last week when it attacked the terrorist leaders last week was indeed orchestrated not by Hamas but by Islamic Jihad.
For those who remain focused on a peace process, it will be interesting to see whether Hamas can effectively stabilize matters in Gaza. It will be necessary to observe the speed and extent to which it calms matters down and how or whether the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank becomes involved and/or gives Hamas credit for trying to bring the Islamic Jihad into line. Given the recent fluctuating tension and rapprochement between these two factions, it may be an important matter for the Israelis to watch. Given that in less than two weeks J Street will be holding its third convention in Washington, the “P” word is likely also to move front and center in the U.S. again—at least for a few days.
Meanwhile, the rocket barrage from Gaza exposed one serious security matter that indeed must trouble the Israelis and ultimately the U.S. as well. It seems that the Iron Dome defense system repelled or absorbed only between 40-60% of the incoming missiles from Gaza. While it remains unclear to what extent un-sophisticated—Qassam missiles from Gaza–fall within the detection capability of the Iron Dome system, it seems that some Israelis sources have begun to raise concerns about the viability and effectiveness of the defensive shield to protect Israel in the event of a major attack from Iran and/or Hezbollah. Certainly, many are now rethinking the extent of probable damage that could be absorbed from a frontal retaliatory attack against Israel.