Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned arch-nemesis Iran that Israel would answer any attack with a ‘resounding blow’ in his first statement after Iran launched missiles on Iraqi airbases housing US soldiers in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Netanyahu also voiced his full support over the killing of Iranian Quds Commander General Qassem Soleimani, and branded the slain general a ‘terrorist’.
Netanyahu’s office had also released a statement on Sunday after the death of General Soleimani saying:
“Qassem Soleimani brought about the death of many American citizens and many other innocents in recent decades and at present. Soleimani initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East and beyond.”
“President Trump is deserving of all esteem for taking determined, strong and quick action. I would like to reiterate – Israel fully stands alongside the US in the just struggle for security, peace and self-defence.”
However, despite Netanyahu’s confidence, officials have reportedly had a much more muted take. Times of Israel reported that an IDF General stated at a media conference, that they would simply observe the situation. The General stated that the killing of General Soleimani should be seen as a part of the Iran-US conflict alone. While it would have consequences for Israel, the IDF general also expressed that it was good that the assassination had taken place away from Israel.
Multiple international news outlets also reported leaks from Netanyahu’s meeting where he expressed that Israel should not be dragged into any Iranian-US conflict.
The assassination of General Soleimani comes at a politically sensitive time for Israel. The country will head to its third election in a year after the last two elections resulted in a political deadlock. Despite the fact that Israeli opposition leaders have rallied behind Netanyahu’s statement, the country would still avoid military engagement with Iran with its current political instability.
Israelis already fear Iranian backlash due to their country’s close ties with the US, and turbulent relations with Iran. In May 2018, both countries reached the brink of war after Iran fired rockets at Golan heights, and Israel responded by attacking what they claimed were all key Iranian bases.
Iran has also become a soft power in the Middle East, particularly in the areas surrounding Israel’s immediate borders, and also in rebuilding Iraq. Iran funds Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Hamas in Palestine. Its power has also strengthened due to Washington’s slow pull out from the region. Providing military help to US would invite an all-out war on Israel’s own borders.
(With inputs from agencies)