This wasn’t the “preemptive” strike we were expecting. The recent spasm of violence between Israel and Gaza began last Friday when Israel assassinated Zuhair Qaisi, leader of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, a group it claims was about to launch a terrorist attack. According to the Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz, Israeli leaders launched the assassination knowing full well it would elicit a barrage of rockets into southern Israel.
Assessments ahead of the decision to bomb the car carrying Zuhair Qaisi predicted that around 100 rockets could be fired into Israel during each day of the round of violence expected to erupt. This was a price the government felt it was capable of paying.
Why were Israel’s leaders so sanguine? One reason may be Barack Obama. In his 2011 budget, with Israel reportedly struggling to fund fully the expensive missile defense system Iron Dome, Obama asked Congress for $205 million to spur production and deployment.
In the year since Iron Dome became operational, Israeli leaders have grown increasingly confident of its effectiveness. Referring to Iron Dome’s success this weekend, Yossi Drucker of Rafael Advances Systems Ltd, which makes the system, told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, "The system's success rate exceeded 90 percent this time around, just as we expected it would."
Did their increased confidence about Iron Dome embolden Israeli leaders to kill Qaisi? Ehud Barak has hinted as much, declaring, “The great success of the Iron Dome in intercepting rockets fired at Israeli cities in the last two days contributes to the security of Israel's citizens and to the freedom of the leadership to act to create deterrence.” (Interestingly, this was one of the arguments doves made against developing the Strategic Defense Initiative during the 1980s: If it worked, it would embolden the US to take riskier offensive action against the USSR).
So Israel may be acting more aggressively in Gaza because Obama rushed it two hundred million dollars in military aid (on top of the $3 billion annually the US already provides) to help protect southern Israel from the Palestinian response. Too bad he still doesn’t feel any sympathy for Israel in his kishkes.