Threat perceptions from Israel

Attacks from Within and Without: Threat Perceptions from Israel

Over the month of April, Israel experienced a spike in attacks originating from its surrounding borders, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as its own major cities. From the north, a barrage of more than thirty rockets was fired from Lebanon on towns along the border on 6th April.[i] Just days later, six rockets were fired at Israeli villages in the Golan Heights from Syria.[ii] In the Jordan Valley, a gun attacker killed two teenagers and seriously injured their mother on 7th April[iii]. From the Gaza Strip, Hamas and other terror organizations fired rockets and mortars at Israeli communities along the Gaza perimeter.[iv] In Tel Aviv, an Israeli Arab drove his car into a group of people, killing one and wounding six others on 8th April.[v]

While all these attacks were carried out in and around the month of Ramadan—a period that has long been known to excite tensions between Palestinians and Jews[vi]—2023, in general, has brought about an increase in violence in Israel[vii]. This trend continues with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip in the first week of May and Israel’s retaliatory Operation Shield and Arrow.[viii] Events outside Israel and, perhaps even more importantly, inside it contribute to the deteriorating security situation.

The regional international arena

One important factor is Iran and its proxies in the region. For the past year, Iran has been afflicted by domestic unrest and invested huge resources to squash popular uprisings against its theocratic rulers.[ix] Having recently subdued the challenge, the regime has also managed to reach an understanding with its regional foe—Saudi Arabia[x]—allowing it to focus on matters in the Levant. In Syria, a number of Iranians have died over the past month and a half because of attacks attributed to Israel[xi] [xii], which targeted Iranian infrastructure built to arm and support Lebanese Hizballah, Iran’s Shiite military and political affiliate. Frustrated for the past few years for its inability to retaliate against what it perceives as Israeli aggression, Iran is constantly looking for ways to respond. At the beginning of April, Israel downed an unidentified UAV flying into its northern territories from Syria.[xiii]

Hamas leadership [...] has made amends with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and reached an understanding with Hizballah in Lebanon.

Searching for someone to carry out its attacks, Iran has found a willing partner in Hamas, a militant affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood. While its formidable military apparatus in Gaza is wary of leading an attack on Israel—most probably on orders of its leadership, who do not want to absorb the brunt of Israeli retaliation while still recovering from the previous round of mutual attacks in May 2021
[xiv]—Hamas has been developing its armed axis against Israel in Lebanon and in Syria.[xv] In the wake of Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Israel, Hamas leadership in exile has made amends with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and reached an understanding with Hizballah in Lebanon.[xvi] No wonder Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and other senior leaders have been coming and going to Beirut and Damascus, meeting Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah[xvii] and Assad.[xviii]

While the Syrian southern Golan Heights, where the rockets were fired from in April, is practically a no man’s land barely administrated by the Syrian regime, southern Lebanon is highly regimented by Hizballah. It would be naïve to think that dozens of rockets can be fired without the tacit approval of Hizballah. Hizballah’s sense of adventurism has increased lately, as evident in recent border skirmishes. This may be attributed to a sense of urgency rising from the dire political and economic situation in Lebanon[xix], where Hizballah may feel pushed into action before the total implosion of the state. An emboldened Iran, close to achieving a nuclear threshold[xx], backed by Russia[xxi] and encouraged by its thawing regional relations with its neighbors, is certainly encouraging Hizballah’s risk-taking.

The domestic arena

And yet, one cannot ignore the implications that the Israeli home front is having on the situation. From its very formation in December, Israel’s new right-wing government has been preoccupied with effecting drastic change in the state’s system of government. Massive demonstrations against the proposed judicial reforms[xxii] and specific warnings by the backbone of the reserve military, led by reserve fighter pilots[xxiii], have failed to put a stop to the dash to pass the laws, which are vastly regarded as changing the very nature of Israeli democracy, potentially pushing it down the slippery slope of an illiberal, undemocratic path of development. Listening to the announcements made by Air Force pilots and high-ranking reserve officers to freeze their active reserve duty, it is no wonder that Israel’s enemies are considering taking risks.

Tedious coalition negotiations and deep distrust between ministers and political partners have created a risky situation.

Challenges to the cohesion of Israeli society represent only one element of the change that the new Israeli government has brought. Tedious coalition negotiations and deep distrust between ministers and political partners[xxiv] have created a risky situation where the police, the military, and other security forces, each under a different minister and adhering to a different political agenda, are struggling to cooperate and coordinate their activities, which would otherwise be so crucial to an effective fight against domestic terrorism and external attacks. Since fall 2022, unprecedented numbers of Jews ascended the Temple Mount[xxv], even more so during the first three weeks of the holy month of Ramadan.[xxvi] Palestinians view this as a systematic change to the status quo, and one that is set on eventually ending Islamic authority over the day-to-day operations of this holy site. Under ministerial guidance, the Israeli police have been much more aggressive in the Al-Aqsa compound—known to Jews as the Temple Mount—than during Ramadan in previous years, and yet, with tensions running high the Israeli government eventually banned Jews from the area until the end of Ramadan.[xxvii]

While Israel’s enemies feel emboldened and on their guard at the same time, a more pronounced breakdown in the social cohesion of Israeli society, compounded by Israeli policies perceived as fundamentally changing the status quo over contested areas in the favor of Israel, could fuel further anger, drive up extremism, and contribute to increased levels of terrorism. For the time being, the situation is precarious and a crisis that could escalate into war can originate from Israel’s domestic as well as regional international environment alike.

[i] Fabian, E. (2023). 34 rockets fired from Lebanon at Israel in worst barrage in years; Hamas blamed. The Times of Israel. Retrieved from
[ii] Fabian, M. (2023). IDF: 6 rockets fired from Syria at Golan Heights; military retaliates with strikes. The Times of Israel. Retrieved from
[iii] Joffre, T. (2023). Terror shooting in Jordan Valley: Two Israelis murdered, one wounded. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved from[iv] Arab News. (2023). Several rockets fired from Gaza Strip toward Israel. Retrieved from
[v] Knell, Y. and Cooney, C. (2023). Tel Aviv car-ramming kills Italian tourist and injures 7. BBC News. Retrieved from
[vi] Al-Omari, G. and Pollock, D. (2022). Managing New Israeli-Palestinian Tensions During Ramadan. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved from
[vii] Jewish Virtual Library. (2023). Comprehensive Listing of Terrorism Victims in Israel. Retrieved from
[viii] Lazaroff, T., Abu Tomaeh, K. and Bob, Y.J. (2023). IDF strikes Hamas posts in Gaza in response to renewed rocket fire. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved from
[ix] Alarabiya News. (2022). Timeline: Events in Iran since Mahsa Amini’s arrest and death in custody. Retrieved from
[x] Berg, R. (2023). Iran and Saudi Arabia to renew ties after seven-year rift. BBC News. Retrieved from
[xi] Mroue, B. and Federman, J. (2023). Israeli strikes on Syria intensify, raise tensions with Iran. AP News. Retrieved from
[xii] Reuters. (2023). Israeli attack kills Iranian Guards officer in Syria, Iran says. Retrieved from
[xiii] Al-Monitor. (2023). Israel downs flying object from Syria as Iran vows revenge. Retrieved from
[xiv] Al-Mughrabi, N. and Saul, J. (2021). Reuters. Factbox: Palestinians, Israelis count cost of 11-day fight. Retrieved from
[xv] Blanford, N. (2023). Hezbollah and its allies are more emboldened than they’ve been in nearly two decades. Atlantic Council. Retrieved from
[xvi] Jawhar, S. (2022). Lebanon: New Strategic Base for Hamas. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved from
[xvii] Middle East Monitor. (2022). Haniyeh to meet Nasrallah in Beirut as Israel escalates tension with Lebanon and Gaza. Retrieved from
[xviii] The Times of Israel. (2022). Hamas delegation visits Syria for first time in a decade, will meet Assad.
[xix] Coningham, U. (2023). Lebanon on the Brink. RUSI
[xx] Bell, B. and Gritten, D. (2023). Iran nuclear: IAEA inspectors find uranium particles enriched to 83.7%. Retrieved from
[xxi] United States Institute of Peace. (2023). Iran’s Deepening Strategic Alliance with Russia. Retrieved from
[xxii] Regev, M. (2023). Israel’s judicial reform saga: A guide for the perplexed – opinion. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved from
[xxiii] The Jerusalem Post. (2023). 200 Israeli fighter pilots freeze reserve duty in protest of judicial reform. Retrieved from
[xxiv] Breuer, E. (2022). Depth of distrust between Netanyahu and coalition partners on display. The Jerusalem Post .
[xxv] Obel, A. (2022). Record number of Jews reported to visit Temple Mount over High Holiday season. The Times of Israel. Retrieved from,amid%20Hamas%20threats%20of%20violence&text=More%20than%206%2C000%20Jews%20visited,according%20to%20an%20advocacy%20group.
[xxvi] The Times of Israel. (2023). Hundreds of Jews tour tense Temple Mt.; Jordan warns against violations of status quo. Retrieved from
[xxvii] Kampeas, R. (2023). Israeli government bans Jews from Temple Mount through end of Ramadan. Jewish News. Retrieved from

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