Paul Gross

3 takeaways from last night’s historic coalition against Iran

We can assume that what Iran threw at us last night is not everything they’ve got. This was more about being seen to do something unprecedented, in response to Israel’s assassination of the most senior IRGC figure in Syria. That said, they must be desperately disappointed with the results of their 331 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles fired at Israel: a slightly damaged air force base and one 7-year old girl injured by shrapnel.

Of course Khamenei and his advisors knew full well that Israel has the most sophisticated missile defense umbrella in the world, but they would have been forgiven for assuming that it would be overwhelmed by the sheer number of projectiles fired. (The same logic Hamas employed on that Simchat Torah morning.) What they most likely did not expect was a coalition of US-led allies – including Jordan(!) – joining the fight to shoot down the drones and missiles en route. For this, Israel owes a huge thank you to Biden, and to the US-led alliance.

I have three takeaways from this genuinely historic defensive action last night:

  1. When it matters, the Biden Administration is there for us

Biden and others in his administration have said many things (and done one thing – at the UN Security Council) that are certainly worthy of criticism by Israelis and Israel supporters. But these were errors of judgement or decisions made with domestic politics in mind. They were not Biden “betraying Israel”, or “siding with Iran”, or (most absurdly) examples of “antisemitism” – all interpretations that I’ve seen from Israeli right-wingers and Jewish conservatives in the US in recent months. These accusations may well be helpful to Netanyahu and Trump, and their respective election campaigns (in Bibi’s case, there is no election scheduled, but he is in perpetual campaign mode), but they do nothing but harm to the US-Israel relationship. They’re also just stupid. When we’ve needed Biden to show us that his “ironclad support for Israel” is sincere, he’s done so.

We can and should criticize when there’s a need (but diplomatically, not like Bibi’s pathetic hissy fit after the UN vote), but we should also loudly proclaim our gratitude for displays of principled solidarity like last night.

2. Security cooperation with Arab states is invaluable

Jordan’s involvement in the operation to shoot down Iranian hardware highlights the importance of Israel having peace with Arab governments – even when it does not include peace with their populations. Of course a “warm peace” would be preferable, but the process which began in 1978/9 with Egypt, continued in 1994 with Jordan, and could yet reach previously unimaginable levels of regional cooperation with the Abraham Accords, is of immeasurable importance to Israel.

Our leaders should keep this in mind when they ultimately weigh their “day after the Gaza War” strategy. Progress with the Saudis will require some kind of commitment on the Palestinian issue, but not (I believe) an immediate return to substantive negotiations for a two-state solution. Anyone who tells you that expanding settlements, or annexing parts of Judea & Samaria, will be more beneficial for our security than normalization with the Sunni Arab world is, I suspect, speaking from a place of ideology, not security expertise.

3. Israel needs a strong US, leading the Western democratic world

The role of the US as the leader of the Western alliance is critical for Israel’s security. So when you hear from the usual suspects (or from your MAGA uncle on Seder Night) that Trump will be better for Israel than Biden, remember, their guy is the one who wants to leave NATO; who admires Putin and who sees no benefit or value in the US continuing to assist democracies against tyrannies. Biden’s a long way from perfect. But he has our back when it matters most; and he understands that the Free World needs the US at its head.

About the Author
Before moving to Israel from the UK, Paul worked at the Embassy of Israel to the UK in the Public Affairs department, and as the Ambassador's speechwriter. He has a Masters degree in Middle East Politics from the University of London. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem - though he writes this blog in a personal capacity. He has lectured to a variety of groups on Israeli history and politics and his articles have been published in a variety of media outlets in Israel, the UK, the US and Canada.
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