The Israeli military targeted two leaders of the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) on Tuesday, drawing hundreds of rockets in retaliation from the group in Gaza. Israel later responded with airstrikes, killing at least 31 Palestinians including civilians.
The timing of the attack falls on Netanyahu's last day as interim defense secretary. The Israeli leader has faced right-wing accusations of being too soft on Gaza as he struggles to remain part of negotiations to form a new government.
While Egypt and the United Nations are reportedly trying to de-escalate tensions, rhetoric from Israel and the PIJ has indicated neither are interested in backing down.
How does Netanyahu gain?
Netanyahu's strike comes as his political rival, Benny Gantz, has been tasked with trying to form a new government after two elections this year failed to find a clear winner. But the attack has scuttled Gantz's potential support from Israeli Palestinian parties, forcing him back into considering sharing power with Netanyahu.
In order to avoid forming a unity government with Netanyahu, Gantz had been courting the idea of forming a minority government with support from the Arab parties of the Joint List, who might back the hawkish former army chief only to block Netanyahu. Under that arrangement, the Joint List would not join the minority government but would vote to support its formation in the Knesset.
Netanyahu saw that as a clear enough threat, announcing that "a minority government supported by the Arab parties = a danger to the state," according to Haaretz, just before he launched Tuesday's attack. The strikes drove a wedge in that potential alliance, forcing Gantz to come out in support of the offensive and Palestinian Knesset members to condemn it.
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