Thursday, May 23, 2024

Here’s How Israel Will Respond to the Iran Attack

HomeWARHere's How Israel Will Respond to the Iran Attack

Tensions in the Middle East reached a boiling point this weekend as Iran launched an unprecedented aerial assault on Israeli soil. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the Islamic Republic unleashed a barrage of 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and 120 ballistic missiles aimed at population centers across Israel.

The audacious attack marked the first time Iran has directly struck Israel after decades of proxy conflicts and hostilities between the two nations. While Israel’s air defenses managed to thwart 99% of the incoming projectiles, the unprecedented Iranian missile campaign has left the region on edge and Israel weighing its response.

A Single Casualty, But High Costs

Miraculously, the Iranian attack resulted in only one serious casualty – a 7-year-old girl who is currently fighting for her life after shrapnel from an intercepted missile tore through her family’s home in a suburb outside Tel Aviv.

However, the attack carried an immense economic toll. Israel’s missile defense systems were put to the ultimate test, with the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 batteries working in unison to detonate the Iranian weapons in the skies above Israeli cities. Each interceptor missile costs between $40,000 to $1 million, and Israel expended hundreds of them to neutralize the Iranian threat at a cost likely running into the hundreds of millions.

For Israeli citizens, the barrage was a terrifying experience. Air raid sirens sounded across the country before 3 AM, sending families scrambling for shelter as explosions lit up the night sky. While no Israeli was killed, the psychological scars run deep.

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“It was like a horror movie – missiles raining down while we cowered in our safe room not knowing if we would be hit,” said Anat Cohen, a mother of three from Haifa. “We can’t keep living like this, under constant threat from Iran.”

A Line Crossed

According to Iran, the missile strikes were retaliation for an alleged Israeli airstrike on April 1st that killed nine officers with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps at an Iranian consulate in Damascus.

For Israel’s government, Iran’s direct attack represented an unacceptable escalation that cannot go unanswered.

“This was a line that Iran crossed,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told reporters on Sunday. “They launched missiles directly at our civilians from Iranian soil. There will be a response, but we will determine when and how.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself under immense pressure from hardline factions within his governing coalition to strike back at Iran with force. Hawk members of his Likud party argue that failing to retaliate would effectively give Iran a “green light” to launch future attacks.

“We must respond decisively so that the rockets from Iran don’t become routine like the rockets from Gaza,” said Galit Distal Atbaryan, a Likud member of the Knesset.

Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet, which includes Gallant and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, has been meeting daily to weigh potential retaliatory options. So far, statements have suggested a measured Israeli response calibrated to punish Iran while avoiding further regional escalation.

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“This episode is not over,” Gantz said on Israeli television. “We will build a regional coalition against the Iranian threat and exact a price from them at a time that suits us.”

U.S. Urges Restraint

As Israel’s closest ally, the United States wields substantial influence over the scope of any potential Israeli retaliation. The U.S. provides roughly two-thirds of Israel’s imported weapons and allocates at least $3 billion annually in military aid.

President Joe Biden has reportedly urged Netanyahu to show restraint. According to the Washington Post, Biden told the Israeli leader, “Slow things down and think through how to respond. You got a win. Take the win.”

Biden and U.S. allies in Europe fear an unchecked escalation between Israel and Iran could spark a broader regional conflict, destabilizing the entire Middle East. France and Britain have publicly called on Israel to de-escalate tensions.

“The U.S. has tremendous leverage over Israel and has so far refused to use it,” says Hisham Hellyer, a Middle East expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “Whether Israel escalates may come down to if they think the U.S. has their back to act aggressively or will try to penalize them.”

The White House did recently deny Israel’s request to launch a military operation in the Gaza Strip without guarantees to limit Palestinian civilian casualties. For the first time, the U.S. appeared willing to pressure Israel over its heavy-handed tactics against Palestinians.

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Building a “Regional Coalition”

Paradoxically, Iran’s attack on Israel has served to highlight the Jewish state’s growing ties with Sunni Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that also seek to counter Iranian influence.

Analysts say multiple Gulf countries provided intelligence to the U.S. and Israel about the Iranian missile launches. Jordan’s military also reportedly helped intercept Iranian projectiles that entered its airspace despite its criticism of Israel’s policies in Gaza.

“Iran probably got the message that if it attacks Israel, there will be a response not only from Israel but its Arab allies too,” said Yossi Mekelberg, a Middle East expert with Chatham House in London. “It was a reminder that the Arab rivalry with Iran supersedes their opposition to Israel.”

While the Abraham Accords normalized ties between Israel and several Arab states in 2020, military cooperation against a shared threat like Iran could deepen this rapprochement.

For now, all sides are awaiting Israel’s next move as tensions remain elevated. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi warned any new “adventure” against Iranian interests would provoke a “heavier and regrettable response.”

As he weighs retaliatory options, Prime Minister Netanyahu faces a delicate balancing act. He must project Israeli strength while avoiding being baited into a regional conflagration – unless the U.S. and Israel’s new Arab partners have his back.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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