Middle East

Is Israel's unfaithfulness to its allies coming to an end?

Date: January 30, 2023.
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Iran has many reasons to claim that the attack on its military facility in Isfahan caused only "minor damage". The situation is very unpleasant for the regime in Tehran, because the country’s air sovereignty has been breached and particularly because the target was an important military facility deep in Iranian territory.

The regime has been sufficiently destabilised by external economic isolation, and significant internal civil protests, so the reaction of Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran's foreign minister, that the attack on the facility in Isfahan was “cowardly”, and that it was aimed at destabilising the country, was unconvincing.

Israel did not confirm that it had carried out attacks on Iranian facilities in previous similar instances, but again this time, few believe anyone else is responsible.

Israel has many reasons to launch an attack such as this on a military installation in Isfahan. One is psychological, and its aim is for the state to demonstrate a quick and decisive response to the recent terrorist attack on the East Jerusalem synagogue.

Immediate and harsh retaliation

The cost that Israel paid on Friday was huge - seven dead during prayer in the synagogue on Holocaust Remembrance Day. That is why the attack on the Iranian military facility has indications of immediate retaliation.

It took place in just over 24 hours and was quite effective, regardless of what authorities in Isfahan, and particularly in Tehran, said.

Satellite and video images emerging in the meantime corroborate Israeli reports on the effects of the attack.

“Despite Iranian claims, the drone attack on Iran at Isfahan was a tremendous success”, reported the Jerusalem Post, citing Western intelligence sources and foreign sources.

Benjamin Netanyahu's new government may have a strong motive for such an attack.

Having suffered a major blow from Friday's terrorist attack on the synagogue, the most effective way to restore national confidence, but also to protect its image as a conservative protector of the country in the first month of its term, was to strike back immediately with all its might.

Balancing strategic interests

Israel has many foreign policy and strategic reasons to carry out military actions, such as the one in Isfahan on Saturday.

Netanyahu’s new government is reluctant to send arms aid to Kyiv, and there is every chance that it will maintain such a course in the future.

Although it participates in a coalition of 50 countries that synchronise military aid to Ukraine within the framework of the Ramstein group, Israel persistently refuses to send weapons to Kyiv, and instead it has been providing humanitarian aid.

"Netanyahu has good relations with Putin and wants to maintain these relations, and as Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said, the current government's policy will talk less about Ukraine”, said Nimrod Goren, the head of Mitvim , the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies.

On the other hand, Israel, as the closest military partner of the US in the region and globally, does not want to harm that partnership in any way, in a situation where the US is the leader of the coalition of allies providing military aid to Ukraine.

The attack on the military installations in Isfahan, therefore, can look like an attempt by Israel to amortise the pressures from its allies due to its passivity towards Ukraine.

“This is a smart trifecta where Israel can hurt Iran, help Ukraine, and not risk its strategic interests in Syria or run the risk of the diversion of its sensitive military technology to Russia and into Iran”, Mark Dubowitz, chief executive officer of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank, told the Wall Street Journal.

Israel will therefore continue to remain on the side-lines regarding military aid to Ukraine, unlike all its Western allies.

With manoeuvres and actions in the region, such as the latest one in Iran, Israel will try to compensate for its disloyalty to allies, which is the result of its government's political calculations with Moscow.

How long can Israel ignore Ukraine?

Its partnership with the US is crucial, which was confirmed by the recent large-scale joint military exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean, the largest in joint military history, involving as many as 7,500 people on both sides, including the top generals of both armies.

It was Iran that was marked as the central "theme" of these manoeuvres, together with its proxies in the region, whereby the US sought to demonstrate that it will preserve its security presence in the Middle East, despite its heavy involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.

On the other hand, Netanyahu's conservative government will remain loyal to its regional security priorities, where there is not much room for Ukraine.

Israel's balancing act between divided interests in the Middle East and Europe, and between relations with Iran, Syria, Ukraine, Russia and the US, has been ongoing for a full year.

However, the frequency of visits by high-ranking US officials to Israel suggests that Netanyahu’s government does not have much room and time left for manoeuvre.

Following National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan's recent visit to Israel, State Department head Anthony Blinken will also speak with government officials on Monday.

Although the focus of the talks will be on overcoming the latest tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, the issue of partnership over Ukraine, as a top priority for the US and its allies, can hardly be bypassed at such a high level. An issue from which Israel persistently seeks to be exempted.

Source TA, Photo: Shutterstock