Israel’s Next Course of Action Remains Uncertain Amidst Media Speculation

The US has reportedly advised Netanyahu not to attack Iran

The US has denied giving Israel the green light to move against the Gaza city of Rafah instead of attacking Iran, as a Qatari outlet reported Thursday citing an anonymous Egyptian official. 

Israel has said it would respond to Saturday’s missile and drone attack by Iran, itself a reprisal for the deadly Israeli bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria. The war cabinet in West Jerusalem is reportedly trying to formulate a plan of action acceptable to Washington.

Egypt is preparing for a possible Israeli ground attack on Rafah, an unnamed official told the UK-based, Qatari-owned , adding that the operation was accepted “in exchange for not carrying out a large-scale attack against Iran.”

A spokesperson for the US National Security Council, however, told reporters that the story was not true and that such a plan has never been discussed.

The Israeli public broadcaster Kan said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed the planned response after a call from US President Joe Biden. 

Iran had targeted Israel with drones and missiles, in what Tehran called lawful retaliation for the Damascus consulate bombing, which killed seven high-ranking officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force.

According to a New York Times account published on Wednesday, the US was “caught off guard” by the Damascus strike, as West Jerusalem informed Washington only “moments” before it happened.

While Israel never officially claimed responsibility for the strike that killed General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, anonymous Israeli officials who spoke to the Times confirmed he was indeed the target and that the attack was planned two months in advance.

Internal Israeli documents viewed by the US outlet noted the range of expected Iranian responses to the strike, but failed to predict the “ferocity” of what actually happened twelve days later. West Jerusalem had “badly misjudged” the consequences of the consulate attack, US and Israeli officials were quoted as saying.

After the missile and drone barrage, Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador to an IRGC base and asked her to convey a message to the US that it “should stay out of the fight, and that if Israel retaliated, Iran would strike again, harder and without warning,” the Times reported.

US officials have reportedly told West Jerusalem to declare victory and forego a reply. However, several members of the war cabinet believe that this would allow Iran to believe it had changed the rules of the conflict, which would be unacceptable to Israel. Among them are Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot – former military commanders and opposition to Netanyahu – according to three Israeli officials.