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Faced with Iran, Israel plays appeasement and continues its shadow war

In Tel Aviv.

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Faced with Iran, Israel plays appeasement and continues its shadow war

In Tel Aviv

The Israeli government has refused to confirm an attack on an Iranian air base in retaliation for 350 Iranian missile and drone attacks last Saturday, in an attempt to avoid a military escalation. Israeli ministers and senior officers followed the instructions given by Benjamin Netanyahu to respect silence in the ranks.

None have officially confirmed the attack on an Iranian air base in Isfahan, Iran. In order to circumvent censorship, newspapers, radio stations and television channels have adopted a usual tactic which consists of quoting information published in the American media, themselves informed by Israeli journalists. This concern for discretion is part of a communication strategy and above all a concern not to trigger a military escalation that the United States and Europeans want to avoid at all costs.

“The attack attributed to Israel was limited in order to allow the Iranian regime not to be forced to react and attack Israel again,” explains Ron Ben Yishai, military commentator for Ynet, the largest Israeli news site. To achieve this objective, Israel targeted a base which would have been used to fire some of the 350 Iranian missiles and drones towards Israeli territory last Saturday. In other words, the two parties can consider themselves equal to the extent that an Iranian missile reached the Nevatim air base in southern Israel without causing significant damage. One everywhere, ball in the center.

“This operation fulfilled its objective of strengthening Israeli deterrence without provoking an escalation, it can work, because it is convenient for the Iranians to deny that they were hit and to proclaim that Israel has failed. In this way, both sides can afford to keep face while defusing the conflict,” says Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence.

According to Israeli Army Radio, this tactic apparently worked, at least initially. “The Iranian leaders did everything to give the impression that practically nothing had happened, that it was a minor attack,” the radio said. The only certainty: Israel has made intense efforts to accommodate Iranian sensitivities. No minister or military spokesperson has trumpeted victory. Everyone remained discreet, with the exception of Itamar Ben Gvir, the minister responsible for Police and leader of a far-right party. He summed up his disappointment with the reaction that he considers too timid from the Israeli army with a slang word in Hebrew that can be translated as “weak” or “soft” on his X account, which gave him earned an avalanche of criticism for not having respected the directive of discretion. Abroad, Israeli embassies around the world, however, respected the order not to react.

The military also played the appeasement card. No new instructions have been given to the population, for example on shelter preparations in the event of an Iranian attack. In short, the shadow war in which the two countries have been engaged for decades seems likely to continue unabated in order to avoid an armed conflict that could set the Middle East ablaze. This scenario can only reassure the United States and the Europeans, who have exerted incessant pressure for a week to convince Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, not to give the green light to large-scale reprisals against Iran.

The “moderation” of the Israeli response must make it possible to preserve this alliance and this support which contrasts singularly with the almost total isolation in which Israel found itself following the continuation of the war in the Gaza Strip and the crisis humanitarian which is rife in this enclave. To preserve this asset, Israel seems determined to simply carry out its operations while, most of the time, refraining from claiming them. A radar station in southern Syria used by Iranian soldiers was attacked on Friday. Cyberattacks could be expected, like those that paralyzed nearly three-quarters of Iran's gas stations late last year. Israel should also continue or even intensify its raids against Hezbollah, Tehran's faithful ally in Lebanon, as well as attacks against convoys of Iranian weapons transiting through Syria, intended for Hezbollah or representatives of the Revolutionary Guards in post in Syria.

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