Hamas's war effort against Israel is of importance to Iran as a testing ground for a certain strategic hypothesis. As [Hamas representative in Tehran Khaled] Qaddoumi put it, the movement this time "applied a strategic shift in the concept of resistance, from defending Gaza against Israeli attacks to defending all Palestinians living in historic Palestine."
This statement accurately points to the essential strategic question underlying this round of fighting. In recent years, the Palestinian Arab population west of the Jordan has become politically fragmented. Four identifiable populations exist: the Arab citizens of Israel, the inhabitants of Gaza, the Arab inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the population living under the administration of the West Bank Palestinian Authority.
The Hamas offensive which began with the launching of seven missiles at Jerusalem on May 10 is an effort to test the hypothesis that by mobilizing the symbol of al-Aqsa Mosque, and then initiating military action in the name of its defense, Hamas could reduce or remove these divisions.
Iran envisions a long war resulting in Israel's weakening, isolation and eventual collapse.
Iran's strategic vision is of a long war conducted through the use of proxies and political client forces, and intended to result in Israel's hollowing out, weakening, isolation and eventual collapse.
The division of the local Arab forces represented and represents a threat to the advancement of that vision. The latest Hamas offensive is hence most importantly an attempt to reverse this fragmentation. The feasibility of the Iranian strategy against Israel depends on the divisions being bridged.
The latest Hamas offensive attempted to bridge the division of local Arab forces.
At this interim stage, but with a ceasefire now looking increasingly possible, what will be the verdict drawn regarding this effort? As of now, it looks mixed.
Jerusalem, with Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr passed, has experienced only sporadic unrest. The riots in Israeli Arab towns have for the moment receded. The West Bank has seen large demonstrations but does not currently appear close to conflagration.
Gaza, though it will undoubtedly continue to fire rockets until the last moments, has suffered far greater damage than it has been able to inflict. If these situations hold, the fragmentation has not been comprehensively overturned.
Widespread rioting by Arab Israelis demonstrates the efficacy of al-Aqsa as a unifying symbol.
Nevertheless, from the Iranian point of view, there are also considerable reasons for encouragement from the events of the last 10 days. Most importantly, the widespread rioting and attacks on Jews by Arab Israelis in Lod, Ramle, Haifa, Jaffa and elsewhere demonstrate the efficacy of al-Aqsa as a unifying symbol.
For the first time, Arab Israelis in large numbers assisted the war effort of a group attacking Israel.
Even if this has not for now resulted in a generalized uprising, it is a strategic lesson that the Iranians will note carefully. For the first time since the establishment of Israel, Arab Israelis in large numbers mobilized, and on occasions used weaponry, to assist the war effort of an organization attacking Israel. This is a matter of deep significance, and represents a profound, if still partial, success for Hamas and its backers. The possession of considerable arsenals in the hands of elements of the Arab Israeli population and the potential this has for disruption will similarly have been carefully noted.
The initially slow and weak response of Israeli state authorities in responding to this will also be recorded. As will the role of armed Jewish volunteers in defending against the mobs, particularly in Lod (an aspect insufficiently discussed in Israeli media.)
The large rallies in Europe and the Middle East demonstrate the continued resonance this issue has for broad sections of the Muslim public.
Without Iranian backing, the latest Hamas offensive against Israel would be inconceivable.
All these will be seen by Iran as encouraging signs of Israeli internal disarray and division, opening up new possibilities for future use.
As ever, Iran prefers to avoid direct involvement. But without its backing, support and expertise, the latest Hamas offensive against Israel would have been inconceivable. From this point of view, the events of the last 10 days may be seen as the latest episode in Tehran's long war against Israel.
Jonathan Spyer is a Ginsburg/Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.