It’s Tempting to Connect the Dots, but Iran-Israel War Doesn’t Seem Imminent

It’s very tempting to connect all the dots into one straight and sure line: The prime minister calls for national unity and hints at an expected escalation with Iran; the president describes “an economic-security need that we haven’t known for many years;” Iran claims that it thwarted an assassination attempt against Gen. Qassem Soleimani and in the background there are again assessments about war getting closer, certainly with Yom Kippur around the corner.

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Still, it’s doubtful that these things are connected to one another so simply and clearly. Indeed there is increasing tension between Israel and Iran, but it’s been building up over time and isn’t necessarily related to the assassination attempt, which no one knows when or if it happened, and who might be behind it.

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At the same time, President Reuven Rivlin is continuing his efforts to persuade Likud and Kahol Lavan to agree on an outline for a unity government. Rivlin is using the security argument to achieve this, but he isn’t referring to an immediate military development; he’s focusing on the Israel Defense Force’s budgetary problems and its links with a difficulty in implementing its multiyear plan. The situation in the Middle East is particularly complicated, but there are no clear signs on the horizon pointing to an immediate war that would upend all political calculations.

The announcement by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Thursday was unusual. This wasn’t an anonymous leak, but an official declaration by the head of the group’s intelligence division, claiming that Iran had uncovered an Israeli-Arab plot against Soleimani. The announcement included several details: It claimed that the Iranians had succeeded in intercepting a killer cell, which sought to plant 500 kilograms of explosives under a prayer site built in memory of Soleimani’s father, during a religious ceremony.