Israeli leaders spar over Iran response as Biden demands restraint

Some lawmakers want an immediate strike on Iran, while others advise strategic patience.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s war cabinet met for several hours on Sunday to discuss responses to an unprecedented aerial attack launched by Iran overnight Saturday, but the meeting was concluded without a decision regarding Israeli retaliation.

According to Channel 12 News, members of the war cabinet generally agree that Israel must act against Iran in order to “restore deterrence” and discourage future attacks, but are divided regarding the timing, scale, and intensity of the response.

Some Hebrew-language media outlets reported that former Defense Minister Benny Gantz had pushed for a strike on Iran while the attack was still ongoing, or shortly after it ended, but that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been dissuaded from taking immediate action after a phone call from President Joe Biden.

The U.S. has publicly stressed that it will not support, nor take part in, an Israeli strike on Iran.

“The eyes of the entire Middle East and the entire world are on the State of Israel,” said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who urged Israel to launch a retaliatory attack.

“If our response resonates throughout the Middle East for generations to come — we will win,” he said in a media statement.

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“If we hesitate, God forbid, we will put ourselves and our children in immediate existential danger.”

Smotrich is a member of Israel’s Security Cabinet, but not the war cabinet, which includes three voting members: Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Minister Without Portfolio Benny Gantz.

The Finance Minister’s sentiments contrasted with those of Gantz, who seemed to imply that Israel would use strategic patience and not respond to Iran in the near future.

“Faced with the threat of Iran, we will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us. And most importantly, in the face of the desire of our enemies to harm us, we will unite and become stronger,” Gantz said.

“Just like any other country, Israel has the right to defend itself in the face of Iran’s massive attack,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a media statement shortly after the attack.

“Israel successfully defended itself against Iran’s aggression and will continue to do so in the future.”