For several days, have been living in a sense of heightened adrenaline. Several Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza were assassinated by Israel. The group would respond with rocket barrages including the occasional rocket that would make it to Tel Aviv. This time, unlike two years ago, did not have the misfortune to be under the air raid siren. The possibility was ever there, and every morning that woke up realized that something was amiss that was not interrupted in the middle of the night.
This isn’t the 2021 Gaza conflict, where Hamas fired volleys upon volleys of rockets at Israel’s center. Recovering from a sprained neck at the time, I spent the better part of a week in a bomb shelter or taking cover outside to air raid sirens and the occasional explosion. Riots broke out across Israel, including one nearby in Bat Yam where a Jewish mob vandalized Arab owned stores at Ben Gurion street on the waterfront. The situation in Lod and Acre was worse, and many Jewish properties were badly damaged. Some from both sides of the ethnic divide were lynched. The border guard was recalled from the West Bank and sent into Lod to tone down the flames. We stayed home and hunkered down until things calmed down.
None of the extremism prevailed this round. More Gazans were injured and killed even within Israel itself. Islamic Jihad was left without much of its top military council and most significantly, Hamas largely stayed away… that is despite having Iran demanding its intervention. Islamic Jihad largely stood on its own and was little match for the Israeli army.
However let’s be clear, what we saw is not the end of the story, perhaps not even of the chapter. Over the Passover holiday, in scenes not seen in decades, rockets were launched into Israel from Syria and Lebanon. Israel responded, largely hitting empty soil and in the case of Syria one military target.
We are living in a changing geopolitical reality. Russia, isolated by the West for invading Ukraine, is increasingly reaching out to Israel’s enemies, in particular Iran, for support. China is happy to make new alliances in the region, helping broker peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The United States under Biden is also less pro Israel than ever, with many in the Democratic Party increasingly happy to end unconditional support. Many Jewish Americans are increasingly distant both socially and politically from Israel. While the United States continues to back Israel diplomatically, this may be on borrowed time.
The enemies of Israel are regrouping. As were the words of Defense Minister Gallant and also of many Israelis, the time of a multi-front war is only a question of when, not if. This is a reality commonly perceived on the streets of Israel. Not a week goes by that someone brings up the possibility that a multi-front battle can emerge. At the moment, it was not in Hamas’s strategic interest, or of Hezbollah to rain down missiles. However, a multi front conflict including Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and cells in the West Bank is a very real possibility. While the IDF is very capable of facing off such a threat, the odds that it will be able to achieve all its aims against all fronts at once is diminished. While Israel’s Iron Dome and now David Sling has shown itself capable of taking out hundreds of rockets a day with minimal casualties, the possibility of it facing off with thousands of projectiles is not the material of fiction. With Russia/Ukraine still very much ongoing, the conflict will be a side note, with much of the world media against us for our lack of casualties. Expect demands for a quick ceasefire with little aims achieved.
In the meantime, Israel’s usage of International Humanitarian Law in Warfare will be viewed at the highest level by its enemies and even global observers. While Russia has leveled parts of Ukraine to rubble, Syria is one massive ghost town, African nations use child soldiers, it will be the errand missile from Israel that will shake alarm bells around the world. This is as it is being pounded by hundreds, perhaps thousands of rockets. The global civil society will not care of David Sling and Iron Dome success rates, or of full populations hunkering down in shelters losing sight of what it means to live a normal life, but will only see Jewish blood as the necessity for Israel’s defense.
Israel is the winner of this round. However, no-one should be fooled that a more catastrophic round may be coming. We in the home front need to be ready for a multi-front war and not only to be ready, but to win it.