OPINION - Benjamin Netanyahu’s critics are silenced but don’t expect outright strike on Iran

An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon (REUTERS)
An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon (REUTERS)

We are now waiting for the next round following the spectacular light and sound show of Iran’s missile and drone attacks on Israel. It has threatened revenge. Iran has said it will hit back if its territory is attacked. Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, the UN Security Council and the G7 nations have urged restraint.

There is a real possibility that a miscalculation could lead to escalation but there is something almost rehearsed, an element of a game of bluff in what happened across the skies of the Levant.

The Americans and Israelis were given due warning of what Iran’s missile forces were about to do — they got the timing of the attack down to almost the minute. Most of the 330 drones and missiles didn’t make it to Israeli territory.

Israel’s air defences, Iron Dome, the Arrow 3 missiles, aircraft patrols, all worked. They will need constant replenishment and update, much borne by American aid and defence industries.

For now, there are two clear winners — Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Netanyahu’s critics are silenced as the country draws in behind him. He can choose how and when to hit back at Iran — and he will strike, whatever the warnings from Washington. Biden has said America will not assist in an outright attack on Iran.

But that is not likely to happen. There are likely to be more strikes on Iran proxies and the kind of targeted assassination that started this whole round of strikes — the bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1. The breach of international law was egregious and provocative — but Israel deliberately aimed to assassinate Iran’s Brigadier General Zahedi who they saw as one of the architects of the October 7 Hamas terrorist massacre, and was actively planning further attacks. The blow-up across the Middle East has distracted from Ukraine, where retreat could quickly turn into defeat. Western nations, America itself, is divided about more help for Ukraine, as they are united in support of Israel. In the Middle East the talk is of restraint — while for Ukraine restraint, risk aversion, has now turned to grubby negligence.

Ukraine now needs the quality of air defence we have just seen over Israel, as Russia turns to bombing and rocketing all civilian infrastructure prior to a major spring ground offensive. The signs of miscalculation and international reluctance are all too obvious.

If retreat in Ukraine turns to defeat in the next few weeks, we are all going to feel the impact and consequences. More so than from anything witnessed over Israel and its neighbours at the weekend.