On Tuesday, incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip started two forest fires. Over the past fifteen months, fires caused by balloons and other makeshift devices have destroyed thousands of acres of farms, forests, and wildlife reserves. This is but one sign of the intractable problem that the Jewish state faces from its southeastern border, as Jonathan Schanzer writes:
Gaza is widely recognized as Palestinian territory. But it’s also Iranian. It was Iran that helped Hamas conquer Gaza in 2007. It was Iran that continued to keep “Hamas-stan” solvent until the rupture between the Shiite regime in Tehran and the Sunni Hamas over Syrian policy in 2012. Iranian funding since has been restored, but it has not returned to its previous levels, primarily due to crippling U.S. sanctions on the regime in Tehran. But ties today are once again strong.
The missile barrage in May was almost certainly precipitated by Iran. It began with a sniper attack by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a terrorist faction heavily influenced by Iran. Senior Israeli officials believe that the attack was likely ordered by Iran to disrupt Egyptian cease-fire mediation between Hamas and Israel. Should Israel elect to eject Hamas from the Gaza Strip, an Iranian response would loom large. . . . Iran will not surrender this territory without a fight.
There is a [possible] scenario in which Iran deploys its Lebanese proxy, Hizballah, to preserve Iran’s interests. Hizballah has an estimated 150,000 rockets in its arsenal, including a growing number of precision-guided munitions. Should Iran choose to activate Hizballah amid a Gaza war, a two-front conflict would make the May barrage look like a minor nuisance.
While threats mount, time may be running out on the political cover Israel needs for the Gaza war it doesn’t want but may need to wage nonetheless. . . . [The real] risk is that Israel would allow itself to become a political football. . . . If it came down to conflict, pro-Israel Democrats and Republicans alike would rally their support. They would understand the gravity, even the necessity, of a war in Gaza. But critics would cast Israel as the aggressor, and one that was in league with Donald Trump to boot. The next conflict could thus easily be cast as a politically binary one, where American politicians framed their views on Israeli security as either a pro-Trump or anti-Trump position.