For Israel, Revenge Should Be a Dish Served Cold

After several days during which Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei repeatedly vowed that “the evil Zionist regime” would be punished for its April 1 attack on Iran’s embassy complex in Damascus that killed seven Iranian military advisers, including three top commanders, the Islamic Republic struck. More than 300 drones and missiles launched from Iranian soil took aim at Israel on Saturday. Nearly all of them were intercepted, mainly by Israeli or American defenses, with a report of just one Israeli casualty, a girl from a Bedouin community wounded by shrapnel.

Will that be the end of it?

It’s no secret that Israel and Iran have fought a shadow war for decades. The weekend attack is notable for two reasons: its directness and its ineffectuality. Iranian military commanders undoubtedly understood that most of their slow-moving drones, about 170 in all, would be shot down before reaching their targets. They were a diversion. Those commanders were probably more surprised that their 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles also did negligible damage.

That should drive home a clear lesson to Iran’s leaders: They are no technological match for the Jewish state, especially when the United States is lending a hand. If Israel decides to respond to the attack with direct strikes on Iran — perhaps against oil installations, nuclear sites or military infrastructure — it isn’t likely to miss its targets.

As I write this, Israel’s cabinet is debating that question. As a matter of self-defense, Israel has every moral and legal right to respond in kind — and then some. It is not enough for Israel to demonstrate its capacity for defense, as it did over the weekend. It must also re-establish its capacity for deterrence. That is, it needs to show Iran’s leaders that the price for bringing their war against Israel out of the shadows will be unbearably high, and is therefore not to be repeated.

But if right is one consideration, prudence is another.

Israel has an unfinished war against Hamas in Gaza, and a direct Israeli attack on Iran could trigger a second full-scale war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, if not with Iran itself. Most Israelis understand that particular war will have to be fought sooner or later — perhaps before the end of the summer — and that it will be probably much tougher on them than the Gaza war has been so far.

But war with Hezbollah will demand two things: the full concentration of Israel’s fighting capacity and sustained support from the United States.

Back to top button