Monday, February 13, 2012

Car Bombs Hit Israeli Embassies

Two Israeli embassies were targeted with car bombs this morning, one which detonated in India and one which was defeated in Georgia.  The culprit is presumably Hizbullah, whose deputy leader Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a car bomb attack four years ago yesterday.  Since his death, Israel has been on high alert around the anniversary for retaliation by Hizbullah. 

Today's attacks were somewhat expected by the Israeli government.   Since Hizbullah lacked the element of surprise, the government was able to mitigate damage to its property and personnel.  Tali Yehoshua-Koren, the wife of an Israeli diplomat who was injured in the blast in New Delhi, is seriously injured but stable enough to be flown back to Israel for medical treatment.  Without planning and diligence by Israeli diplomatic security personnel, the damage could have been a lot worse.

The question in Washington this morning is what Israel's reaction will be.  IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz is in an emergency meeting with the head of intelligence and commander of the air force, and may make a statement later today.  Foreign Minister Lieberman has stated simply that Israel will not be swayed from its policies and sees the attacks as evidence of the threats Israel faces.  

For his part, Prime Minister Netanyahu has placed blame squarely on Iran though it is unlikely he has sufficient evidence so soon after the attacks to back up the claim.  It appears thus far that the Israeli government will use the incident to build pressure on Iran rather than engage with Hizbullah and risk being dragged into another 2006-esque conflict.  This response benefits the United States since it builds diplomatic pressure on Iran and does not distract media coverage of the Levant from the ongoing violence in Syria.  

But Israel's metered response is not out of pressure from the United States or the international community.  Rather, it is likely the Israeli government  pre-calculated a response from Hizbullah when it decided to take action against Mughniyeh (an attack for which it has not claimed credit) back in 2008.  That is to say, Hizbullah's response is the cost of business in the tough neighborhood that is the Middle East.

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