Incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the country is prepared of everything. He returned prematurely from a trip to Athens while leading military officers were already at home for the first crisis meetings. In the morning the ski area of the Hermon mountain bordering Syria was closed for security reasons. It had been rocketed by Syrian-allied militias in the past.
For fear of attacks from Syria and Lebanon, the Israeli army in the north of the country has been on high alert for some time. Protection of diplomatic missions abroad that Iran and its allies had targeted earlier was also increased on Friday.
How do Tehran’s allies react?
The Iranian expert, Meir Javedanfar, considers a possible retaliation against Israel to be “unlikely”. In Tehran, they are aware that “Israel will respond immediately,” said Javedanfar. In Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, one must currently feel more threatened, said the Iranian-born Israeli expert, who did not want to rule out an “emotional reaction” in Tehran. The regional allies of Tehran, which the killed chief of the Al-Quds brigades Qassem Soleimani himself had helped build and support, are of greater concern in Israel.
This applies not only to the militant group “Islamic Jihad”, with which a violent confrontation occurred in Gaza in November. “There are many Shiite militias in Syria who admired him and regarded him as their commander, so we also have to prepare for the possibility that something will happen nearby”, said former deputy director of the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Ram Ben Barak on Israeli radio.
Israel must also prepare for the case “that Iran decides to make a mistake and respond in our direction, even if we are not involved”, said the former Secret Service agent, who is now a member of the blue-and-white alliance.
The Israeli security apparatus has been monitoring Soleimani’s activities with increasing concern and has tried to partially stop them in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Arms stores, positions and convoys were attacked with hundreds of air strikes. Members of Soleimani’s Revolutionary Guard were also killed.
Nuclear dispute intensified tensions
In August, the Israeli Air Force destroyed an Iranian airfield in Syria, where new “killer drones” loaded with explosives were ready to attack Israel. That too was said to be a plan by Soleimani. In summer, skirmishes with the Shiite militia Hezbollah led by Tehran also occurred in the border area with Lebanon. The nuclear dispute with Iran further exacerbated tensions.
Israel will not allow Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons, Netanyahu repeatedly threatened, who initially gave only one address of solidarity on Friday: Israel is on the side of the United States and supports its right to defend its country and its citizens, said before leaving Athens.
In his long career, Netanyahu, who fought for his own political survival in Israel, had distinguished himself as a defender of Israel’s security. A prolonged crisis with Iran could help him and his Likud party in domestic politics before the third elections within a year.