A Pillar of Defense: Israel’s biggest foe resides beyond the Gaza Strip- Iran has almost encircled the government in Jerusalem.
Many observers make a connection between Netanyahu’s intervention in Gaza and Israeli electoral politics. On social media websites, Israelis are sharing a table that lists the dates of the country’s previous elections and the dates of military interventions. There is some evidence for a correlation. Many say the military operation of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is supposed to distract attention away from economic problems before the January 2013 elections.
But we must also recognize that the frequency of Israeli military operations means that some of them will inevitably fall before an election. We should thus also consider the political and military context for operation Pillar of Defense. After all, Netanyahu did not need to boost his ratings through a costly military operation. His center-right Likud party enjoys a sizeable advantage - together with Avidgor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party - over the Labor party. Polls estimate that the incumbents would enjoy an 11-seat advantage (out of 120 seats) if elections were held today. Netanyahu intervened in Gaza because he could count on such an advantage.
There is at least one strictly military reason for intervention in Gaza: Hamas and its acolytes have dramatically increased their fire power. In the year of the large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip, operation Cast Lead in 2009, militants fired some 200 grenades and rockets into Israel. Since then, the annual number of rockets has increased: first to 600, and up to 700 before the current Pillar of Defense operation. On average, three rockets or grenades were launched per day in the last ten years.
The progress in military capacity is even more evident if we consider the resilience of the Gaza Strip’s militants during days of intensified warfare. On November 16th alone, 100 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip. In the first days of the current operation, a total of 500 rockets were launched (including those that landed at sea or were destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. During operation Cast Lead in 2009, an average of 23 rockets and grenades were launched per day (776 attacks in 23 days). This time around, up to 160 per day were launched during operation Pillar of Defense.