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Prof. Menashri: Israel Should Not Retaliate Now; Measured Iranian Strike Is a Message

The director of Tel Aviv University’s Alliance Center for Iranian Studies advises Israel to exercise restraint in response to Iran’s recent missile and drone strike, suggesting the attack was a strategic maneuver rather than a call to war
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April 18, 2024

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Following a calculated missile and drone strike by Iran into Israeli territory, Professor David Menashri, founder and director of the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University, argued against immediate retaliation by Israel. He explained to The Media Line how he interprets the attack as a strategic message and noted the importance of a measured response to avoid further escalation.

Through a detailed examination of Iran’s tactics, including the use of proxy conflicts and deliberate avoidance of direct military confrontation, Menashri offered his insights regarding the broader implications of the strike for regional stability, the calculated nature of Iran’s actions, and how Israel’s international alliances and internal pressures will evolve under Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership.

Menashri emphasized that Iran’s strategy is intricately planned, aiming to signal its capabilities without escalating to a full-scale war. “Iran absolutely doesn’t want this conflict to deteriorate and involve Iran itself,” he explained. He, instead, pointed to a broader Iranian strategy to extend its influence across the region while avoiding the costs of direct conflict, adding, “They established this ring of axis of resistance with proxies to do for them the job. … This was not the moment that the Iranians wanted this to erupt or escalate.”

Additionally, Menashri provided The Media Line insights into the character and strategic mindset of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, highlighting the founding father of the Islamic Republic’s pragmatic approach to governance. Menashri noted, “Khomeini was not merely a radical ideologue but a pragmatic leader who often placed strategic interests above ideological purity.” He referenced Khomeini’s readiness to issue fatwas that contradicted traditional religious principles if they served the state’s needs, demonstrating flexibility in leadership that prioritized the regime’s survival and stability over strict religious adherence.

Discussing the implications for Israeli policy, Menashri cautioned against the internal and external pressures that might compel Israel to retaliate. He advised, “Wait a bit,” suggesting that responding in haste could unravel crucial international alliances and escalate the conflict unpredictably. He underscored the importance of strategic patience, invoking historical precedents where restraint proved more beneficial than rapid military action.

“The Israeli public’s desire for a strong response is understandable, but leaders must act in the nation’s long-term strategic interests, which may sometimes require resisting the impulse to retaliate.” – Prof. David Menashri

Menashri also reflected on the domestic pressures facing Israeli leaders and pointed out that public opinion and political pressures often drive decisions that may not align with strategic interests. “The Israeli public’s desire for a strong response is understandable, but leaders must act in the nation’s long-term strategic interests, which may sometimes require resisting the impulse to retaliate,” he explained to The Media Line.

Furthermore, Menashri reflected on the regional dynamics, including the involvement of Hizbullah and other proxies that continue to pose a threat to Israeli security. “The problem is that there are some limits to what this government can do to preserve this coalition with Arab countries, the United States, and Europe,” he stated, pointing out the complex diplomatic landscape that Israel must navigate.

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