5/6/18 Living in Tel Aviv can sometimes feel like an emotional rollercoaster ride
Living in Tel Aviv can sometimes feel like an emotional rollercoaster ride . By all accounts, Saturday was a glorious day. While few cities like having all their major roads closed, Tel Avivians seemed to relish this, as one of cycling's Grand Tour races, the Giro d'Italia
completed its second day of racing in Israel. The atmosphere throughout the city was carnival-like with tens of thousands of spectators lining the streets. Here was an international race that included two teams from Gulf states, competing on our streets. For a few hours, even the city’s pessimists had smiles on their faces.
But that smile turned into a frown on the very next day. At the opening of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that we could soon be heading for a military showdown with Iran and better to have that showdown now rather than later. He went on to say that Israel is not interested in getting into a fight with Iran, but that the country is ready if conflict becomes necessary.
On Sunday night, the government leaked to the press the fact that it was aware of an Iranian plan to attack a target in Israel utilizing precision Iranian missiles fired from Syria and a Shi’ite militia. They added that the head Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, is overseeing preparation for the attack. Israeli commentators seem convinced that Iran is not interested in an all-out war with Israel – a war Iran is ill-prepared to fight. Rather, it seeks revenge for the Israeli attack on its drone base following an attack drone launched towards Israel. On the other hand, Israel has made it clear that if an Israeli base is targeted by an Iranian missile, Israel will respond by attacking all Iranian assets in Syria. What seems clear is that this confrontation could quickly spiral out of control and that Israel could find itself in an all-out war. If that war does occur, it will most likely include Hezbollah, previously not willing to become involved in such a conflict until after the Lebanese elections. Those elections took place on May 6th.
A war with Hezbollah with their 100,000 missiles will not be cost-free. Israel’s missile defense system is not hermetic, meaning that it would not be possible to intercept every missile launched against Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. Conflict with Hezbollah could easily result in an immediate Israeli incursion deep into Lebanon, a place many Israelis have seen before as soldiers and never wanted to ever see again (except as tourists, someday.)
The week ahead is clearly going to be a very tense one. Netanyahu flies to Moscow on Wednesday to watch the Russian army parade marking the end of World War II. This will be his eighth meeting with President Putin. Netanyahu will likely attempt to convince Putin to restrain the Iranians, something Putin may be unable or unwilling to do.
President Trump will soon have to announce whether he is pulling the US out of the Iran Accord, something that Netanyahu has been urging. Many Israelis, including the heads of all the opposition parties, have been opposed to this step because of the absence of any apparent ‘Plan B’.
Finally, next Monday is the day when the American Embassy in Jerusalem is officially dedicated. For the Palestinian it is Yom Hanaqba- the day they view as their disaster – the date that Israel commemorates as its Independence Day. It's the day that Hamas in Gaza is promising the largest demonstration yet along the Gaza fence. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel will have to pay a price for moving the Embassy to Jerusalem, but to him that as yet unspecified price will be worth the cost. Many of his countrymen wonder what that price will be. Will they agree that it was worth it? Either way, the upcoming week promises to be especially tense in an ever- tense region of the world.