Iranian attack: strike quickly and hard or take your time, the Israeli dilemma

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Benjamin Netanyahu did not take the time to address the Israelis after the rain of Iranian drones and missiles which fell on the country on Sunday: he brought together two war cabinets and called his American ally. Photos sent to the press bear witness to this.

But it remains unclear what the response to the first direct attack by the Islamic Republic of Iran on Israeli territory might look like, launched in response to a strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1, blamed on Israel.

“Bibi” has just made a very short statement on his X account, where he celebrates the success of the Israeli defense.

Ministers, on the other hand, have stepped up to the plate. Among the hawks, Itamar Ben Gvir, the Minister of Internal Security who on the night of the attack pleaded for an “overwhelming” response.

The opposition leader tackled him. “Asking the ministers of this government to behave responsibly is mission impossible, but they must at least stop talking in the media about threatening Iran,” wrote Yair Lapid on X.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak lambasted those “who want to set the whole Middle East on fire” and accused Mr. Netanyahu of only obeying “personal reasons of political survival.”

Historical allies of Israel, the United States have already said they do not want “an extended war with Iran”, and warned that they would not participate in a retaliatory operation against Iran.

While they helped defend Israel during the Iranian attack, the UK and France distanced themselves. The head of British diplomacy, David Cameron, ruled out his country’s participation in a response and French President Emmanuel Macron called for avoiding a regional “conflagration”.

Iran said it considered “the matter closed” and warned Israel, its sworn enemy, against any “reckless behavior” which would trigger a “much stronger” reaction on its part.

“Nothing immediately”

Israel is playing big in this affair because without its Western and Arab allies – Jordan and Saudi Arabia – its Steel Dome and its fighters would probably have been saturated by Iranian fire.

The tactical coalition led by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, and involving regional countries such as Jordan, is a project that Israel had in mind for several years.

As recently as September 2022, Israel said it wanted the formation of a “deterrent coalition” against Iran and had requested help from many countries, including France, without this succeeding.

This gain is therefore precious for the country, especially since American Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke at the end of March of a risk for Israel of “isolating itself further”, given the heavy civilian toll of the war with Hamas in Gaza.

Paradoxically, this sacred union in the face of Iran “will limit the freedom of action for its response”, noted on X Sunday morning Tamir Hayman, the director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and former soldier.

In order not to offend its allies, Israel could therefore delay possible reprisals.

“It would be useful to maintain this Western, Sunni and Israeli defense alliance which is almost unprecedented, so it goes more in the direction of restraint,” summarizes Calev Ben-Dor, former analyst at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, today now deputy editor-in-chief of the specialist magazine Fathom.

“At the same time, in the Middle East, you cannot be attacked by more than 300 missiles and drones and do nothing,” he continues.

“I assume nothing will happen in the next fortnight, it’s not something Israel needs to do immediately, but Israel will retaliate, probably in a more discreet way, when and where that he will have chosen,” says Mr. Ben-Dor.

It will not be “frontal”, predicts Jean-Loup Samaan, researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), for whom such an option would not receive American approval.

A diplomat from a country that participated in the coalition told AFP he was “satisfied” that “the line of hawks” did not prevail over the weekend.

“We tell them: let’s work together to de-escalate, there is a window of opportunity where you have the sympathy of public opinion,” comments the diplomat, adding: “nothing is excluded at this stage.”

Jeremy Issacharoff, a former Israeli diplomat, explains the moment of uncertainty: “the less said, the better: at this stage, the Iranians should be worried, stay in the dark as much as possible, no need for anyone gives them support.”

This article is originally published on journaldequebec.com

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