In an unguarded moment on Friday, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks told the BBC that the current escalation of tensions between Israel and Hamas has "got to do with Iran, actually." The comment came after Sacks finished his Thought for the Day on Radio 4 Today, when presenter Evan Davis asked him to comment on the Gaza situation before he left the studio. Sacks was unaware that he was still live, and said, "I think it's got to do with Iran, actually."
Davis' co-presenter Sarah Montague whispered, "We, we're live," after which Sacks' tone changed dramatically and he called for "a continued prayer for peace ... no one gains from violence."
BBC has since apologized to Sacks for the incident, but the comment from an influential rabbi begs the question: To what extent is the current flare-up related to geopolitics, and specifically, Israel's relations with Iran?
Thus far, it is unclear. Israel's left-wing newspaper Haaretz has been publishing a series of articles all week suggesting that the Gaza offensive could be a "warm-up" for an Iran strike. Here's an excerpt:
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have not given up the dream of carrying out a major operation in Iran. For some time, prior to the recent American election, they were in disagreement: Barak was against creating facts on the ground which President Barack Obama would be forced to deal with, whereas Netanyahu entertained the idea of exploiting the sensitive political period preceding what he thought would be the surefire victory of his esteemed ally, Mitt Romney.
... For Netanyahu ... the dark cloud in the Gaza skies might serve as an alternative, or preface to, an Iran operation. It all depends on circumstances and what happens further down what may be a long road.
... In theory, a force which is able to strike against Ahmed Jabari would be able to pinpoint the location of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And a force that destroyed Fajr rockets would be able to reach their bigger siblings, the Shihabs, as well as Iran's nuclear installations.
... So as not to leave a shred of doubt, the IDF Spokesman emphasized that "the Gaza Strip has become Iran's frontline base." At first glance, Operation Pillar of Defense seems to be aimed at the Palestinian arena, but in reality it is geared toward Iranian hostility against Israel."
The article goes on to state that Operation Pillar of Defense, the new name for Israel's mounting escalation with Hamas, represents a test for the country, before it deals with Iran.
"Operation Pillar of Defense represents a practical test of expertise for the Israel Air Force commander and the head of IDF Intelligence, Maj. Gens. Amir Eshel and Aviv Kochavi, respectively. Washington alone."
Still, it is unclear how true these allegations are. The theory is that much like the Bush administration needed the Afghanistan war to justify, and sell, the Iraq war, Israel is doing the same with Gaza, and will soon go after Iran.
For its part, Iran has ramped up its own rhetoric toward Israel. On Saturday, Iran's defense minister Ahmad Vahidi said that Islamic countries must come together and respond to Israel's deadly attacks on Gaza. "Putting an end to the Zionist (Israeli) regime's crimes is only possible through a united, revolutionary retaliation by the Muslim world."
But whether that is mere rhetorical posturing, or a genuine threat of force against Israel is more difficult to project.
Weigh in: To what extent do you feel the Israel-Hamas escalation is tied to Iran, and if it is, specifically how?