A Middle East defense alliance is as vital for Israel as the air we breathe

It’s time for Israel to face reality: If it weren’t for our regional partners including Jordan, the country would look completely different this morning

Tal Schneider

Tal Schneider is a Political Correspondent at The Times of Israel

A man walks past a mural depicting the US President Joe Biden as a superhero defending Israel on a street in Tel Aviv, April 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
A man walks past a mural depicting the US President Joe Biden as a superhero defending Israel on a street in Tel Aviv, April 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Today, April 14, 2024, is a critical day in Israel’s military history: Israel and its allies managed to intercept 99 percent of a massive barrage of drones and missiles fired by Iran in the early morning hours.

According to the biblical description, “The people [of Israel] shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). But on this historic morning, the message must be the opposite — that Israel cannot manage on its own and must take other countries into account when making military, political and regional decisions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a failed strategist, and everyone in the region has known this since he returned to power about a year and a half ago. That’s why Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s message Sunday morning was particularly clear: “Together with the US and other partners, we managed to prevent all but minimal damage in Israeli territory, a most impressive achievement by the IDF.”

“The whole world saw tonight who Iran really is — a terrorist state that attacks Israel from a distance of 1,500 kilometers and tries to activate all its proxies. But the world also saw the power of the coalition, and how Israel together with the US and other countries stood up and blocked this attack in an unprecedented manner.”

Gallant didn’t mention Israel’s neighbor to the east — Jordan — but during the night it became clear that Jordanian Air Force pilots also participated in the campaign to repel the Iranian long-range missiles and swarms of drones.

Other countries are believed to have pitched in, with early detection systems, intelligence and additional assistance. Jordan even absorbed some of the shrapnel from the interceptions that fell on in its territory, and there were reports of several injuries.

An image grab from AFPTV footage shows Jordanian onlookers and security agents standing around the debris of a missile intercepted over Amman amid an unprecedented Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel, April 14, 2024 (Ahmad SHOURA / AFP)

Though Gallant didn’t mention Jordan or the other countries by name, Israel needs to take an unflinching look at the new regional reality. The regional alliance between the US, Israel, and allied Arab countries, known as Middle East Air Defense (MEAD), is already in play. Without this assistance, especially from the US, Israel would look completely different this morning.

The United States stuck to its longstanding, ironclad commitment not to allow Iran to make good on its threat to harm Israel. US President Joe Biden took dramatic steps — he left his vacation home in Delaware and flew to the White House, convened his senior security teams, brought American military forces closer to attack positions, sent interceptors to the area and issued strong statements of support throughout the night.

Leaders from around the world followed in his footsteps, some with statements of support and some with material assistance. But few trust Netanyahu’s judgment at this time, so Biden didn’t waste any time before reportedly informing Israel that Washington would not support an Israeli counterattack.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls US President Joe Biden from IDF’s Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on April 14, 2024. (GPO)

Saturday night’s attack came in response to an April 1 airstrike on an Iranian consulate building in the Syrian capital of Damascus that killed several Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders, including two generals. Tehran blamed Israel and promised “punishment,” though Jerusalem did not take responsibility for the strike.

In Israel, the right will shout that this is an opportunity to teach the Iranians a lesson for everything they’ve put us through on and since October 7. But Washington has learned how to manage Netanyahu and dictate what’s allowed and what’s not — and not to hold back on sharp messaging.

The US expects that despite the dramatic Iranian response — and thanks to the fact that there were almost no casualties — the two sides will stop at “an eye for an eye.”

Or, as Biden likes to say, “Don’t.”

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