William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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ESCALATION – AT 8:51 A.M. ET:  The conflict between Israel and Hamas is escalating dramatically, threatening to ignite a new Mideast war.  The current round began with a sharp increase in rocket fire into Israel, prompting a sharp Israeli response, which included the killing of the Hamas military commander.  From today's Jerusalem Post:

Gaza terrorists continued to fire rockets into southern Israel on Thursday morning killing three people and injuring two others in Kiryat Malachi. Hours later, a rocket fired into the Eshkol region injured three IDF soldiers, two moderately. Some 245 rockets have been fired from Gaza into the South since the IDF launched a campaign Wednesday to root out the terror infrastructure in the coastal territory, beginning with the targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari, the chief of Hamas's military wing.

MDA paramedics treated five wounded people at the site of the Kiryat Malachi attack, in which a rocket hit a four-story building. Three people were pronounced dead on the scene and two others were suffering moderate injuries, including a baby.

COMMENT:  Members of the esteemed UN Security Council met to discuss the escalation, but couldn't agree on much more than planning another meeting.  The Obama administration, at least on the surface, is currently siding with Israel in its response to rocket attacks.  So is Canada.  The New York Times, to the left of Obama, immediately criticized the Israeli operation.

The new Islamist Egyptian government has withdrawn its ambassador from Israel, hardly a surprise.

There is obvious concern that Iran, operating through its agents in the Mideast, could escalate the conflict somewhere else, to divert attention from its nuclear program.

There's an Israel national election in January, and the political impact of the rapidly growing crisis can't be discounted.  Obviously, a strong Israeli response helps the Netanyahu government.  One wonders why Hamas would launch a major rocket attack, knowing that the military reaction could only help Bibi.  Maybe it's because they see a tough Israeli government as being in their interest.  For a terror group, conflict is natural, and the tougher the enemy, the braver the terrorists look.

Welcome, Mr. President, to your second term.

November 15,  2012