Firefighters try to extinguish a fire in the Israeli town of Shlomi caused by a rocket launched from Lebanon, April 6, 2023. Photo by Fadi Amun/Flash90.
Firefighters try to extinguish a fire in the Israeli town of Shlomi caused by a rocket launched from Lebanon, April 6, 2023. Photo by Fadi Amun/Flash90.

Despite lull, officials know heightened tensions are here to stay

The silver lining in the recent violence is that despite Israel being attacked on multiple fronts (Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Judea, Samaria and within the Green Line), its enemies have not been united.

No matter how you look at it, the current escalation is here to stay. Even if the flare-up with Hamas in Gaza and in the north is over for now, the chances of a multi-theater conflagration fomented by Iran have risen significantly, and it is doubtful whether the genie can be put back in the bottle.

The escalation on all fronts has also had Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah meet this week in Lebanon with Hamas leaders, with a photo released showing all three men sitting in a room under Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s picture. According to reports in Lebanon, during the meeting, they discuss the tension with Israel, including the clashes on the Temple Mount and the “escalating resistance” in Judea and Samaria and Gaza.

So far, the silver lining in the recent uptick in violence is that despite Israel being attacked on multiple fronts (Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Judea and Samaria and within the Green Line), its enemies have so far not been united. Iran has been fanning the flames, but the Palestinians have been doing the actual work. That has had Israel give Hezbollah somewhat of the benefit of the doubt by not holding it accountable for 28 rockets from Lebanon after it said it was not involved.

Even on Sunday, after the Hezbollah-Hamas summit, security officials still saw the Temple Mount as the main trigger of events. The fact that Hezbollah has yet to respond to the Israeli strikes on Lebanon following the rocket barrages, despite Nasrallah pledging that every Israeli attack would be met with a proper response, has been a source of guarded optimism in Israel. Officials have even noted that this could mean that Israeli deterrence vis-à-vis Hezbollah has remained robust.

But there is also another interpretation—that Nasrallah is waiting for the right moment to hit back and perhaps surprise Israel with a volley. But in the grand scheme of things, had Nasrallah wanted a direct confrontation with Israel, now would have been the ideal moment from his perspective, with Israel torn from within and under attack from all sides.

On Saturday, the Syrian arena entered the mix. No, not the actual Bashar Assad regime but various forces that decided to fire rockets from Syria to Israel. It is still unclear who fired the six rockets towards the Golan Heights but the assessment is that this was a Palestinian faction, like in Lebanon. The IDF hit back at the sources of the launches and later also struck targets belonging to the Syrian military. This time, the IDF took responsibility for the attacks, unlike the many other cases where Jerusalem has stayed mum on strikes in Syria. It also said that it holds Damascus responsible for “everything that happens on its soil” and that it would not tolerate a breach of Israeli sovereignty.

IDF has beefed up its presence

In the Palestinian theater, the situation is much more complex. The Palestinian Authority has all but ceased to function, and today’s generation does not remember the Second Intifada and the Israeli response in the form of 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield in Judea and Samaria.

Strategically speaking, the despair in the Palestinian street is on the rise, as the population sees no hope on the horizon. The truth is that the damage done by the rockets from Gaza and Lebanon pales in comparison to the damage caused by the deadly terrorist attacks emanating from Judea and Samaria. The threat warnings of imminent attacks are in the double digits and that is why the IDF has continued the closure of checkpoints into Green Line Israel and beefed up its presence in main roads and cities.

Given this state of affairs, perhaps the events of the past several days are just a prelude to a longer period of heightened tensions. The current target date among security officials is April 21, when Ramadan ends. The hope is that if the lull continues until then, perhaps this will have marked the end of the current wave of Arab violence.

To reach there, however, there are several days that are especially vulnerable to violence, including this Friday, which Nasrallah mentioned in his latest speech. If Israel doesn’t get dragged into an all-out conflagration in the coming days, the security and diplomatic establishment will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. But everyone knows that this is just a short lull in violence.

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