Strikes Upend Israel’s Belief About Iran’s Willingness to Fight It Directly

Iran’s unprecedented strikes on Israel this weekend have shaken Israel’s assumptions about its foe, undermining its long-held calculation that Iran would be best deterred by greater Israeli aggression.

For years, Israeli officials have argued, both in public and in private, that the harder Iran is hit, the warier it will be about fighting back. Iran’s barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles on Saturday — the first direct attack by Iran on Israel — has overturned that logic.

The attack was a response to Israel’s strike earlier this month in Syria that killed seven Iranian military officials there. Analysts said it showed that leaders in Tehran are no longer content with battling Israel through their various proxies, like Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Houthis in Yemen, but instead are prepared to take on Israel directly.

“I think we miscalculated,” said Sima Shine, a former head of research for the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency.

“The accumulated experience of Israel is that Iran doesn’t have good means to retaliate,” Ms. Shine added. “There was a strong feeling that they don’t want to be involved in the war.”

Instead, Iran has created “a completely new paradigm,” Ms. Shine said.

Iran’s response ultimately caused little damage in Israel, in large part because Iran had telegraphed its intentions well in advance, giving Israel and its allies several days to prepare a strong defense. Iran also released a statement, even before the attack was over, that it had no further plans to strike Israel.

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