TEL AVIV—While predictions of doom in Israeli-Palestinian relations tend to come easy, the worst doesn’t always come to pass. But thanks to a pair of major upcoming anniversaries, the vagaries of the Jewish and Muslim calendars, and the whimsy of President Donald Trump, the coming week could be different. The confluence of numerous events set to take place over a few days in May has felt, as it approaches, like a perfect storm gathering.
In truth it has already begun, encouraged by a decision made far away in Washington, when President Trump on Tuesday withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement. That night Israeli jets struck inside Syria against what Israel said were Iranian militiamen preparing to launch rockets against Israel. The following evening, Iranian proxies under the command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired a barrage of rockets against Israeli positions on the Golan Heights, an Israeli-controlled sliver of land on the Syrian frontier, drawing a massive Israeli retaliation strike against over 50 Iranian targets.
It was a new spike in the steadily increasing direct clashes that have taken place in recent months between Israel and Iran in Syria. In an effort to stop Tehran from establishing a permanent military foothold in the country, Israel had already struck at least three Iranian bases inside Syria since February, reportedly killing over 20 Iranian military officers. Given, too, the public reveal last week of a daring Mossad operation deep in the heart of Tehran, it seemed that an Iranian response was just a matter of time—although, according to Israeli security officials, not before Trump’s deadline to withdraw from or keep the Iran deal (originally set for May 12). The thinking was that the Iranians wouldn’t want to provide a pretext for a U.S. withdrawal from the deal. Developments over the last few days have vindicated this assessment. Still, neither Israel nor Iran seem all that inclined to back down, and further confrontations are likely.