Biden Seeks to Head Off Escalation After Israel’s Successful Defense

President Biden and his team, hoping to avoid further escalation leading to a wider war in the Middle East, are advising Israel that its successful defense against Iranian airstrikes constituted a major strategic victory that might not require another round of retaliation, U.S. officials said.

The interception of nearly all of the more than 300 drones and missiles fired against Israel on Saturday night demonstrated that Israel had come out ahead in its confrontation with Iran and proved to enemies its ability to protect itself along with its American allies, meaning it did not necessarily need to fire back, the officials said.

Whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his government will agree to leave it at that was not immediately clear. Although damage from the attack was relatively light, the scope of the strikes went well beyond the small-bore tit-for-tat shadow war between Iran and Israel in recent years, crossing a red line by firing weapons from Iranian territory into Israeli territory. Had defenses not held, scores or hundreds could have been killed.

Emotions were running high among Israeli officials during phone calls with American partners late into the night, and the pressure to fire back was consequently strong. The U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive discussions, stressed that the decision was ultimately up to Israel. Israeli jets early Sunday hit structures in Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah after the Iranian-backed militia sent two explosive drones into Israel, but it was not clear how related that was to the Iranian airstrike.

Mr. Biden spoke with Mr. Netanyahu on Saturday after the Iranian attack and repeated his “ironclad commitment” to Israel’s security. While the president did not publicly disclose any advice he offered, in a statement released after the call, he hinted at a desire for restraint.

“I told him that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks — sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel,” Mr. Biden said.

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