Will Israel let an attack by Iran go unpunished? Probably not

Many of us went to bed last night worried about what we would wake up to. 

Iran was attacking the country it calls Little Satan and wants wiped off the map, sending hundreds of drones and missiles.

Follow live updates: Iran threatens 'much larger attack'

The attack was neutralised. Nearly all the missiles and drones were intercepted and did not reach their target.

But make no mistake, this remains a deeply worrying moment. There remains a very real risk of this all spiralling into a much bigger war.

Firstly, Iran may be planning more attacks, whatever it says about considering the affair, started by Israel's attack on its consulate in Damascus, "concluded".

It could launch more missiles or use its allies in the region to attack Israel instead. Iran "owned" the first attack. But it may prefer plausible deniability in any possible follow up.

But the bigger concern for now is what Israel does next.

Israelis are fond of the "what would you do" question. What would Britain do if it was on the receiving end of the kind of attack aimed at Israel last night?

Israelis are acutely aware of the threat posed by Iran. It has for years made common cause with any group in the region that opposes Israel's very existence, arming, training and funding Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis for instance.

Israel's allies will be urging its government to show restraint, to bank a win as the US president is reported to have told Israel's Prime Minister Benjaman Netanyahu in a call overnight.

British and other European allies will be doing the same and of course also urging Iran not to escalate matters further.

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Since the consulate attack western diplomats will have been saying to the Israelis whatever Iran does next, do not overreact, we have your back. We will help defend you as long as you promise not to make matters worse.

Now they will be telling Israel the same. Show restraint. Let us severely reprimand Iran diplomatically and then draw a line under this.

Will that be enough for Israel? Can it afford to let this unprecedented attack by its biggest enemy go unpunished?

If history is anything to go by probably not. It has never allowed itself to rely on others to guarantee its security.

It has the military capability to hurt Iran. Iranian air defences are no match for Israeli jets. This is the moment many in the Israeli military have trained for.

Iran has already said if Israel retaliates it will launch an even larger attack than last night's.

But whatever the diplomatic pressure from allies to show restraint, Israel will be reluctant to let Iran have the last word.