Take the win or take the shot? That is Israel’s choice

Credit: AP

Take the win or take the shot? That is Israel’s choice.

President Biden has urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to choose the former, but sitting in Washington DC isn’t the same as sitting in Tel Aviv and watching Iranian ballistic missiles being shot out of the skies over Israel.

The symbolism of it; the way it made this country feel threatened, should not be underestimated.

And all things considered, there’s a gut sense here that it just can’t go unanswered. Weakness doesn’t wash in the Middle East.

In the early hours of yesterday we watched history unfold overhead, the turning of a page and potentially the beginning of a horrible new chapter.

Iranian demonstrators chant slogans during an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Credit: AP

As the Israeli War Cabinet ponders a response one key consideration will be intent, what exactly was Iran intending to inflict on Israel.

The sheer numbers of drones and missiles sent this way paints a grim picture. And surely the Iranians wouldn’t have known just how effective Israel’s air defences would turn out to be?

The star of the night, Israel’s Arrow interceptor missile, only proved itself in anger for the first time on November 9.

Then, it took down a single Houthi ballistic missile just outside the earth’s atmosphere. At the time it was heralded as the first space battle.

Now, just five months later, the Arrow was instrumental in the shooting down of 113 of the 120 Iranian ballistic missiles that made it to Israel.

Did Iran handicap its own aerial assault by launching the slow-moving drones first and thereby giving Israel four hours of reaction time?

In fact, Tehran is now claiming it gave the United States 72 hours notice of the attack, although the Americans are denying this.

It could be that the Iranians are so embarrassed by the failure of their barrage that they are now trying to make the case that they always intended it to be a damp squib so as not to spark a regional war.

Will Israel be persuaded by Iran’s defence of its attack?

I doubt it. After all, Tehran knows that Russia has been using Iranian drones in Ukraine to great effect, and may well have expected them to hit home in Israel given the number fired this way.

And what might an Israeli response look like? Top tier would be an attack on the leadership in Tehran or strikes on nuclear sites.

Less inflammatory would be an attack on something like drone manufacturing facilities, or Iranian ships in the Gulf.

US President Joe Biden. Credit: AP

The Americans have told Israel they won’t support a counter-attack. Which means they won’t participate in one.

But President Biden has also promised that America’s commitment to the defence of Israel is ‘ironclad.’

I take that as meaning that if Israel does counter attack the Americans will be ready and willing to defend Israel against whatever the Iranians come back with.

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