It's no accident that we're witnessing an escalation in Gaza rocket attacks on Israel just weeks ahead of the general election. Nor will anyone be surprised if the current government responds far more forcefully than it has to such provocations in recent years.
A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip early Monday morning struck and destroyed a residential building in a small Israeli town north of Tel Aviv. Seven people were wounded in the attack, including two babies.
By midday, Israel had deployed additional infantry and armor to the Gaza border, Hamas gunmen were running for cover, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was cutting short his visit to the US to directly oversee Israel's response to the grave incident.
While Hamas insisted that it had nothing to do with the attack (even though it is supposed to be exercising control over Gaza), the reality is that the terror group believes it can make Netanyahu look bad ahead of the April 9 election, thereby providing a boost to his political rivals.
However, Netanyahu could turn the tables on Hamas and use the escalating rocket fire to his political advantage. For years, he has cultivated an image as "Mr. Security," so failing to respond with great force will hurt Netanyahu at the polls. But hitting back hard at Gaza just weeks away from the election could seriously improve his Likud's electoral prospects.
And Netanyahu will without doubt enjoy the enthusiastic support of US President Donald Trump, who he will meet at the White House just before returning home, for any retaliatory action Israel deems necessary.
Netanyahu will be able to present this overall package of strong military action with full American backing as the kind of unrestrained self-defense that Israel can exercise only under his leadership.
Meanwhile, the prime minister's political rivals are playing right into his hands and making a full-scale Gaza war even more likely by exploiting Monday morning's attack to paint Netanyahu as weak on terror. The leaders of the poll-leading "Blue and White" faction spent the first half of the day reminding the public just how many times over the past several years Netanyahu has vowed to defeat and overthrow Hamas, as if they are daring him to now commit Israeli troops to the fight.
It's all coming together in a kind of perfect storm that can mean only one thing: war.
PHOTO: Officials inspect a home destroyed in a Hamas rocket attack on central Israel early Monday morning. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)