Analysis: With eye on Iran, Gaza conflict reassures Netanyahu

Fri Nov 23, 2012 12:38pm EST
 
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By Crispian Balmer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Both on the diplomatic and military front, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will draw some comfort from his offensive against Gaza as he switches his gaze once more to his main strategic challenge -- Iran.

Israel views Iran's nuclear program as an existential threat in a totally different league to the problems posed by the Islamist group Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu fears a nuclear-armed Iran could one day eradicate Israel and has promised that Tehran will not get the bomb should he win a third term in office in elections on January 22.

In the meantime, he has just ended an eight-day offensive against Hamas with the aim of halting rocket fire out of the coastal Palestinian territory into southern Israel.

Six Israelis and 163 Palestinians died in the fighting before an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into effect on Wednesday, ending a localized, asymmetric conflict that looked very different to any potential war with Iran.

"You cannot compare the Gaza Strip to any other military environment, which makes it unwise to describe what has happened there as a rehearsal for attacking Iran," said Uzi Eilam, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies.

Nonetheless, the Israeli military inflicted serious blows to Hamas's weapons arsenal, much of it sourced from Iran, and showed the world that it has cutting-edge technology, particularly when it comes to missile defense.

Israel says its new Iron Dome interceptors knocked out 421 incoming rockets from Gaza, scoring an 84 percent success rate. Without it, there would have been much more destruction and a significantly higher death toll.   Continued...

 
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during his visit to the police headquarters in Jerusalem November 22, 2012. REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool