As this overview is being completed, the serious security deterioration and confrontation between Israel and Hamas is still unfolding. Significant IDF forces have been operating on the ground in Gaza since July 17, 2014. In the ten days prior to the ground operation, Hamas fired rockets deep into Israeli territory, even reaching the outskirts of Haifa in the north. “Iron Dome” batteries successfully intercepted most of the rockets, and the Israeli Air Force carried out hundreds of attacks against Hamas targets in Gaza. Hamas’s rejection of an Egyptian cease-fire proposal, together with its unabated rocket barrage and its attempts to infiltrate Israel through a system of attack tunnels led the Israeli cabinet to decide on a ground operation.
It is too soon to assess the overall significance of the military conflict with Hamas, but it does underscore the fact that 2014 has brought Israel to a strategic crossroads on two fronts: the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the future of Iran’s nuclear program. Both issues may place additional stress on the triangular relationship: Israel, the United States, and the American Jewish community. The diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians, which ended without result when their April 30, 2014 deadline expired, and the military conflict with Hamas leave Israel with a set of problematic potential scenarios.
At the same time, the interim agreement with Iran and the ongoing permanent settlement talks being held in Vienna raise serious concerns in Israel. The coming months may bring new tensions between Washington and Jerusalem that may trouble American Jewry and could strain the “triangle,” a cornerstone of Israel’s and the Jewish people’s power. The main issues – the fighting in Gaza and the so-far unsuccessful attempt to achieve a breakthrough in reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, along with efforts to halt Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon – are occurring within stormy global and regional contexts. Replete with uncertainties and dilemmas highly relevant to Israel’s standing, both issues test Jerusalem’s decision-makers and the triangle’s strength.