Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Under Pressure Over Iran Attack As Allies Urge Caution

Benjamin Netanyahu Under Pressure Over Iran Attack As Allies Urge Caution


All eyes are on Israel after Iran’s unprecedented attack, but its war cabinet has not signalled any preference for the course to follow, while allies who helped thwart the strike call for caution.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, less vocal than usual, has yet to define any shape, form, or timing for a response to the first direct Iranian attack on Israeli soil.

It came in the form of over 300 drones and missiles launched from Iran on Saturday in response to an April 1 strike on the Islamic republic’s consulate in Damascus, largely attributed to Israel.

Faced with allies urging caution on one side, and some politicians at home calling for a hard response on the other, Netanyahu has met with his war cabinet twice, and called US President Joe Biden.

But he has not spoken publicly of the matter since Sunday, when he praised the Israeli defence in a short post on X.

Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi on Monday told soldiers Iran’s attack would be “met with a response”, but did not specify the timing or type.

“There has been a lot of pressure over the last 48 hours on the Israeli government to respond due to the fact that it was a very unprecedented attack,” Iran researcher at Tel Aviv University Raz Zimmt told AFP.

“I’m not sure the Israeli government can avoid a certain immediate reaction, even if it doesn’t want to be engaged in a full-scale confrontation,” he added.

Zimmt said he would prefer to see “some covert activity without Israel taking responsibility for that in Iran”.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir expressed the need for a hard response on the night of the Iranian launches.

“Impressive defence until now — now there must be a crushing attack,” the far-right minister said on X.

– No ‘need to rush’ –

Conversely, former prime minister Ehud Barak condemned hawkish behaviour and denounced “those who want to set the entire Middle East on fire”.

Others, such as Knesset member Gideon Saar, appealed for patience.

“Israel does not need to rush in its response and disrupt the priorities it set for itself,” Saar said on X.

“Now, the focus needs to return to victory in Gaza: Toppling Hamas and freeing the hostages.”

Israel, which feared being isolated due to the war in Gaza, praised and publicised its cooperation with the US, UK, and France, with support from regional actors such as Jordan in intercepting Iran’s attack.

Without their support, its aerial defence system that includes the Iron Dome would have likely been overwhelmed by the Iranian launches.

But Western governments, notably those that supported Israel in its defence, have warned against an escalation.

A US official said Sunday that Washington would “not participate” in any potential counterattack by Israel.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and French President Emmanuel Macron also cautioned against retaliation.

Even Iran said it considered the matter “concluded” unless Israel chose to commit “another mistake”, in which case Iran’s response would be “considerably more severe”.

– ‘Covert’ response –

“It would be useful to maintain this defence alliance… that is almost unprecedented, so that will favour holding back,” summarised Calev Ben-Dor, former analyst for the Israeli foreign ministry.

“At the same time, in the Middle East, one cannot be attacked by more than 300 missiles and drones and not do anything,” Ben-Dor, now deputy editor-in-chief for specialised review Fathom, said.

“I assume nothing will happen in the next… two weeks or so. But I think Israel will, at some stage, strike back, probably more in a covert way than a public way, at a time and place of its choosing,” he said.

The coalition’s help limits Israel’s manoeuvering space, as it is in a way indebted to the US, says Jean-Loup Samaan, analyst for the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).

“What seems unlikely to me is a frontal response on the Iranians, it’s not a decision Netanyahu can make without consulting the Biden administration,” he told AFP.

“Israeli systems are largely financed by the Americans, so I don’t think they will play around and be ungrateful,” he added.

A diplomat for a country that took part in the coalition told AFP they were “satisfied” that the “hawks’ line” did not prevail over the course of the weekend.

On Netanyahu’s lack of public response, Jeremy Issacharoff, a former Israeli diplomat, told AFP that “the less said, the better”.

“I think the Iranians should be concerned and should be kept as much in the dark as possible, and no one needs to give them any assurances,” he added.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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