Arnon Grunberg



On undisputed wins – Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker:

‘Mired in a brutal war in Gaza and beset by international condemnation, Israelhad a single day of undisputed victory this weekend. After Iran launched more than three hundred missiles and drones at Israeli territory on Saturday night, the Israel Defense Forces shot down nearly every one. The country’s myriad political and security dilemmas, arguably greater than any others it has faced in its seventy-six-year history, could be briefly set aside. “Take the win,’’ President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him not to ignite a regional war by striking back. It is unclear the extent to which Netanyahu will heed the advice.’


‘The Iranians evidently hoped to strike military facilities, including an air base in Nevatim, but missiles were also intercepted over Jerusalem and other civilian areas. Yet Israel’s air-defense systems—known as Iron Dome and Arrow 3—limited the serious casualties to only one, a young Bedouin girl.
The Israelis had help—from the United States, the U.K, and, remarkably, Jordan, its Arab neighbor, with which relations have sharply deteriorated since the war in Gaza began. Early on Sunday morning, Jordan’s military shot down several drones and cruise missiles that had crossed into its airspace on the way to Israel. Less conspicuously, American radar and tracking systems arrayed across the Middle East, some of them in Arab countries that don’t often advertise their partnership with Israel, helped intercept Iran’s drones and missiles. “It’s an integrated system, built across the region,’’ Andrew Tabler, who served on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council and is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me. “Everybody played their part.”’


‘Michael Singh, a former National Security Council official under George W. Bush, tweeted that the attacks were “performative.” There was some evidence to support this idea: Iran’s leaders telegraphed the attack days in advance, giving the I.D.F. ample time to prepare; they launched their drones and missiles not all at once but in waves, making them easier to shoot down; and they refrained from firing larger, more accurate ballistic missiles, which might have had a greater chance of penetrating Israel’s defenses.’


‘An open war between Israel and Iran could spread similar devastation across the Middle East; Hezbollah alone is believed to possess at least a hundred thousand rockets and missiles, in launch sites across the country.
Iran’s role in the October 7th attacks is not entirely clear. Although it certainly armed and trained members of Hamas, the evidence that it helped plan the attack is scant. In any event, Yahya Sinwar, the battle-hardened Hamas military commander, has made it clear that he was hoping the October 7th assault would spark a wider war against Israel. He has mostly failed, but not entirely. In the past six months, the Houthi militia has repeatedly attacked Western ships transiting the Red Sea, disrupting the global economy, and Hezbollah has launched limited missile strikes into northern Israel. Zahedi, the Iranian general killed by the Israelis earlier this month, was in Syria to coördinate Hezbollah’s activities. Israel, in turn, has been attacking Iran and its proxies for years; since 2022, its Air Force has killed more than two dozen Revolutionary Guard officers in Syria. Israel’s objective has been to sever Iran’s supply routes to Hezbollah, and possibly also to disrupt its ongoing nuclear program, which appears to be inching closer toward a workable bomb.’


‘No leader yearns more for a region-wide bloodbath than Sinwar; from the beginning, he has hoped to lure Israel into a quagmire, just as the United States was provoked to overstep after the attacks of September 11, 2001. If Biden ever seemed likely to exert maximum pressure on Netanyahu to restrain himself, now is the time.
At a White House briefing on Sunday, Biden officials sounded simultaneously relieved, impressed, and worried—relieved and impressed that Israel’s military had performed so well against the Iranians (“an extraordinary feat of military prowess” was how one senior official characterized it) but worried about what might come next. For now, the official said, “our goal is to de-escalate.”’

Read the article here.

Was this an undisputed win? That’s a bit of an exaggeration. But it certainly is an opportunity, because even in the Holy Land there’s a limit to madness. Neither Netanyahu (who has no strategy but preserving the status quo, whatever the status quo is) nor the ayatollahs are interested in starting a war.

The Biden officials paraphrased are very good at flattering the Israelis, and flattering is as we all know often the fastest route to de-escalation.

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