Terrorists in Gaza shot two Fajr-5 rockets into Israel. This time, they crossed a red line. This time it became headline news.
Terrorists in Gaza shooting rockets into Israel is unsettling, disturbing, and, unfortunately, common place. It is certainly not headline news any place outside of Israel. Not until terrorist rockets aim for Tel Aviv.
Thankfully, the rockets landed in open areas and no one was hurt.
Israelis who live in close proximity to the Gaza border have become accustomed to the piercing screech of air raid sirens. They know how to make the mad dash to shelters and have learned to become patient and occupy their time until the all clear is given. Sometimes, the incoming projectiles are rockets and mortars. Other times, they are incendiary balloons (really condoms which, once inflated are stronger than old fashioned, party-style, balloons) and kite bombs. They are all dangerous, all life threatening.
Launching rockets targeting Tel Aviv is a significant move. It ups the ante. It shows Iran's hand in this act of terror in so many ways.
The first giveaway is that the Fajr-5 rocket is an Iranian weapon.
Second is that because the target was the Tel Aviv metro area, where two-thirds of the country's residents reside, Israel must respond. And that plays right into Iran's agenda for Middle East domination.
The Tel Aviv metropolitan region is the most populated in all of Israel. From just south of Tel Aviv to just north of Tel Aviv, 66 percent of Israelis reside. It is the most densely populated area in Israel. It is the banking and commercial capital of Israel. Remember, too, that before the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem, the long held capital of Israel according to Israelis, Tel Aviv was the assumed national capital by large parts of the world.
The question on the table now is, how big should the Israeli response be?
Iran is hoping to tip the scales and shake-up the region and force Israel's hand into a harsh reprisal. Iranian leadership would be only too pleased if Israel killed innocent Palestinians in Gaza. Media coverage like that would be a great victory for Iran and Hamas and a greater defeat for Israel.
Were that to happen, no one would remember that two rockets were shot toward Tel Aviv and only through the grace of God missed exploding in populated areas. The world would only center their attention on Israel's killing of innocent Palestinians.
And then there's the timing of the attack on Tel Aviv.
Israel is in the midst of a heated election campaign.
For the first time in many years the seated prime minister, Netanyahu, the longest seated prime minister in the 71-year history of the country, is fighting off serious contenders for his position. And the candidates opposing Netanyahu are demanding a strong and fierce response.
One candidate, Naftali Bennett, leader of the "New Right Party" is asserting that "Now is the time to totally destroy Hamas."
Would those candidates advocate that same response were they to be in office now? Perhaps not — but this is not just about defense anymore, it's equally about politics.
The prime minister cannot appear to be weak. Neither can he put soldiers' lives at risk.
I do not believe that the Israeli response will be a full blown operation into Gaza. There will be aerial strikes using Israel's fighter jets and helicopters and even some smart bombs shot from naval vessels moored off the coast of Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea. This is not going to be the motivating attack for war with Hamas as occurred in 2014 and Operation Cast Lead.
Israel must respond because the rockets were directed at the coastal plain — but Israel's response will be muted. No one was killed and there was no damage even to property. Israel does not wantonly rampage and murder, Israel does not attack innocents — even when provoked.
Israel does, however, target terrorist infrastructure and bomb factories, weapons depots, and command and control centers. It is what they do and what they have already begun to do. But the people inside these facilities have already fled. The facilities are empty. It is no secret that those sites are high priority for an Israeli counterstrike.
Tel Avivis have, for many years, been insulated against the rockets from Gaza.
Seldom have they felt the pressure and the threat from terrorists that other parts of the country feel — some on a weekly and even daily basis. Should Tel Aviv come under fire again, Israel will be forced to respond differently. And those in Gaza responsible for the perpetrating the attack or attacks, and their Iranian handlers, will be prepared for that response.
Now Israel must respond with wisdom.
They need to send a message, but it needs to be a surgical message. Just because you have great power does not mean you use all of it, all the time. That is an ethical principle the United States and Israel share.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.