When a country’s top diplomat starts using terms like “act of war” to portray an act by an enemy state, then the world should get ready for actual war. I don’t know whether Mike Pompeo realizes that he just threw down the gauntlet and made a real war that much more likely. My guess is that he, like his boss, is offering empty threats he has neither the ability, nor the intent to follow through on. Trump himself, after having said the U.S. was “locked and loaded” for an attack on Iran, made clear he wanted nothing to do with another Middle East war. The Saudis themselves, who were the wounded party, don’t want war either. As this attack has proven, the Iranians have many weapons up their sleeve in the event of a shooting war. And the Saudis have much more to lose than Iran does in event of such a conflict.
No media reports I’ve read comment on the impact that Netanyahu’s loss in the Israeli election will have on the Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalry. Israel has been one of the key linchpins in the tripartite alliance between the U.S., Israel and the Saudis. It regularly attacked Iranian/Hezbollah assets and bases throughout Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. According to David Hearst, it even attacked Iranian assets in Iraq on behalf of the Saudis. Israel even began patrolling waters off the Yemeni coast in order to intercept Iranian weapons headed for the Houthis (another story unreported by western media–except here). An aggressive posture toward Iran was a hallmark of the Netanyahu era.
No doubt, the new leaders (Gantz, Lapid and/or an unnamed Likud figure) will retain much of this bellicose approach. There will still be such attacks. But I don’t believe they’ll be mounted with the same ferocity and regularity as Netanyahu employed. Massive Israeli firepower and its aggressive use throughout the region were his stock in trade. Unlike Bibi, as a former IDF chief of staff Gantz understands better than most that there are limits to Israeli power. I doubt he will take Israel to the brink of war as his rival has. And that’s a good thing.
Gantz, along with the entire security-intelligence apparatus supported the Iran nuclear agreement (unlike Netanyahu). There will no longer be Israeli leaders shreying that Iran is about to annihilate the world with nukes; or that the JCPOA must be torn up. In fact, Netanyahu has passed up his annual UN speech warning about the dire plight the world faces with Iran having WMD. Instead, the prime minister’s foreign minister-cipher, Israel Katz, will address the international body. Prepare to snooze.
All this does not mean there will not be other dangerous Israeli acts of aggression. The conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah, being closer to Israel’s doorstep, are much more likely to erupt in war at some point. There have been wars against Lebanon in 1982 and 2006. And too many wars and invasions against Gaza to count. I doubt this will change.