World leaders call for Israeli restraint – but many in Jerusalem are not convinced


Take the win, or strike back?

The question exercising Israeli minds in the wake of Iran‘s missile onslaught and the focus of intense debate in Jerusalem.

The outcome will decide the immediate fate of this region. A return to shadow war, or all-out escalation into something much more serious.

Joe Biden and other allies say Israel should bank a number of wins: Israel‘s military success repelling Iran’s ballistic onslaught and its assassination of several high-level Iranians in the Damascus consulate on 1 April blamed on Israel that precipitated Iran’s retaliation.

And in the Israeli media, there are others making a bigger point.

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Ever since 7 October the steady process of rapprochement between Israel and former Arab allies has been in doubt. Saturday night showed it’s alive and well.

We don’t know the details but a number of Arab states helped Israel either shoot down Iran’s missiles or let in Israeli jets to do so.

There are passionate arguments being made here that the coalition effort is a template for the future. Its proponents argue Israel should build on the unprecedented cooperation from former enemies, not jeopardise it.

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‘All sides must show restraint’

But the hawks – individuals more right-wing leaning – reject that.

“When a bully tries to hit you 350 times and only succeeds seven times, you’ve NOT won,” former prime minister Naftali Bennett said in a long screed calling for immediate action against Iran.

Many here can’t accept that Israel is safer because it was helped on one night to avert a well-telegraphed threat that took hours to reach Israel. They say Iran must be deterred from ever trying to do the same again.

“How DO you deter?” Mr Bennett asks: “By exacting a deeply painful price.”

So while Rishi Sunak, Sir Keir Starmer and Joe Biden all say restraint is in Israel’s best interests, many here are not convinced.

Israelis are wary of outsourcing their security to others. The history of the Jewish people has shown tragically where that has failed in the past.

Read more:
How Biden watched the Iranian attack
Israel ‘knows what our second retaliation would be’ – Iran ambassador
What are Iran’s military capabilities?

So while the world fears any Israeli retaliation that could plunge the region into a deepening and widening conflict, some in Israel say its long-term security requires immediate action that could risk doing just that.

Reports suggest the hawks are prevailing in government. It is not a question of if Israel will retaliate, more when and what.

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The hope would be for a Goldilocks option, not so hot it risks all-out regional war, but also not so cold it fails to land a punch deterring Iran from doing the same again.

Not easy in this volatile region.

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