In eleven destructive days, an internationally recognized terrorist group sanctioned by governments around the world unleashed 4,360 rockets, missiles, and mortar rounds at civilian targets and cities inside the State of Israel. The fact that a non-state player, a transnational criminal organization, would possess so many missiles is mind-boggling. Hamas is a terrorist faction that has perpetrated hundreds of catastrophic suicide bombings on buses, inside cafés, and inside universities—attacks that killed thousands of men, women, and children. A gang of thugs who preach jihad at the barrel’s end of a gun, whose leaders live in presidential suites in Doha, Hamas spent billions of dollars buying missiles and digging a subterranean city while its people starve and go unvaccinated, tried to plunge the Middle East into an all-out war.
In May, Hamas removed the thousands of missiles it stockpiled from their underground network of tunnels and launched an unprovoked war—the third in twelve years—against the Jewish state. Hundreds of rockets were fired at Sderot, Ashdod, and Ashkelon; warheads were hit in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv suburbs. Israelis raced to their bomb shelters. Thirteen Israelis were killed in the terror blitz.
Hamas hoped that the Israel Defense Forces would respond so disproportionately forcefully that the images of a destroyed Gaza Strip and the human shields it used to conceal its rocket batteries, would create a global uproar and make the world forget that Hamas started the fighting in the first place. Palestinian casualties were certain to be high: Hamas dug military tunnels but never spent a single dinar or dollar to build shelters for its citizens.
Not only was this a war that Hamas wanted, but it was one that they desperately needed. The terror group’s progressive mouthpieces, including, sadly, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, have given a laundry list of reasons why Hamas launched the war in their spots on the 24/7 news cycle—Sheikh Jarrah, Damascus Gate, and anti-Israel piles of drivel like the recent Human Rights Watch report—to justify the war, but these are all meaningless talking points. Hamas wants to take control of the West Bank, but elections in the Palestinian Authority were canceled by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor. Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, is corrupt and ineffectual; his ruling Fatah party, is weak and rife with incompetence, nepotism, and graft. When Abu Mazen canceled the elections, it exposed his political fears and Hamas saw an opening.
Political hubris in Israel was a convenient stage for this violent opportunity, but the Hamas barrage of rockets and the hope that it would end up with scores of dead and wounded was the Islamic terror group’s way of staging an election rally.
But no matter how poorly it was showing in the election polls, Hamas would have never launched this war had it not received its marching orders from the mullahs in Tehran.
Recent events have challenged both Iran and the Palestinians, though, and nothing raises the stakes—and the price of oil—like a good old Middle Eastern war. After years of propping up the Syrian regime in a bloody civil war that has killed over half a million people and forced five million men, women, and children into refugees in neighboring countries, Iran is still failed to achieve its strategy to establish a Shiite crescent from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean: the Gulf Arabs, Jordan, and Israel stand in its way even though Iran has fought devastating proxy wars in Yemen. Lebanon, Iran’s outpost to Israel’s north, has been rendered to a Hezbollah missile depot. The Shiite Party of God has ten-fold the number of warheads that Hamas possessed before this current conflagration—Hezbollah’s warheads have longer range than those stored underneath Gaza’s residential blocks; Hezbollah’s missiles are advanced and from China and Iran, and they are guided, able to hit Israel’s capital, Ben Gurion International Airport, and Tel Aviv. Iran and Hezbollah have bankrupted Lebanon and compromised its infrastructure, but Tehran will happily launch another war on Israel’s northern front if it can be politically beneficial, no matter how much suffering the population of Lebanon caught in the crossfire are forced to endure.
The realities are daunting for Israel. But rather than cower to Tehran, Israel and its Sunni neighbors have come together. The Abraham Accords have raised the Star of David in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Rabat, and Khartoum. Other Arab states have strengthened their covert ties to Israel. The Middle East has moved past Iran’s ambitions and beyond them. The Palestinians—and their puppet masters in Tehran—have been relegated to the rear burner.
The war that was just fought, the destruction, death, and sorrow, was all a political statement by Iran flexing its muscles. And that’s the evil: the carnage is all a chess move on the Middle Eastern board. A future war in Lebanon, and there are always future wars in Lebanon, will start for precisely the same reason. In 2006, when the leading powers of the world met to discuss Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Tehran ordered Hamas to dig a tunnel and kidnap an Israeli soldier in the hope of starting a war and taking the political pressure off of Iran; Gilad Shalit was helped captive by Hamas for five years. But Iran did get its war. Days after Shalit was kidnapped Hezbollah murdered three Israeli soldiers and held the bodies of two of them hostage. The world’s attention turned to Lebanon, away from Iran’s nukes. Death is a great diversion.
Iran is now once again at the center of negotiations over its nuclear ambitions—the United States no longer seeks to isolate Iran but rather talk the mullahs into compromise. But the Iranian economy is in a dire spiral, the cost of wars in Syria and Yemen have been exorbitant, and when it looks at what Israel is doing, it sees a first-world nation that has established close economic and diplomatic ties with most of its neighbors. Time to light the spark. Time for Tehran to relish in the sight of Israelis hunkered down in their shelters and Palestinians killed when their homes, turned into launching pads, were destroyed.
Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States likes to say, “Iran is willing to risk as many Palestinian lives as it takes to fight Israel.” The Palestinians, Israel, and many nations in the Middle East will never know peace until the current Iranian evil is dealt with one way or the other.