After meeting Herzog, UK’s Cameron says it’s clear Israel will respond to Iran attack

British FM hopes retaliation will not further escalate tensions, calls for G7 countries to sanction Iran; visiting German FM says all parties must act ‘prudently and responsibly’

UK Foreign Minister David Cameron, left, meets with President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem, April 17, 2024. (Maayan Toaf / GPO)
UK Foreign Minister David Cameron, left, meets with President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem, April 17, 2024. (Maayan Toaf / GPO)

British Foreign Minister David Cameron said Wednesday that it was clear Israel had made a decision to respond to Iran’s unprecedented weekend drone and missile attack and he hoped the retaliation would be carried out in a way that minimized escalation.

Cameron spoke to reporters in Israel after meeting President Isaac Herzog, who met the same day with visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, as both diplomats headed to Israel just days after the Iranian attack.

“It’s clear the Israelis are making a decision to act,” Cameron said. “We hope they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible” and that is “smart as well as tough.”

“It’s right to show solidarity with Israel,” noted Cameron, who also called for G7 countries to impose sanctions on Iran during their foreign ministers’ upcoming meeting on the Italian island of Capri. “What we want to see are coordinated sanctions against Iran,” he said, while accusing Tehran of being “behind so much of the malign activity in this region.”

“I think there’s more that we can do to show a united front,” he said of the G7.

Britain’s top diplomat further argued that Iran must be “given a clear unequivocal message” over its support for Palestinian terror group Hamas, its Lebanon-based ally Hezbollah, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, all backed by Iran.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, left, President Isaac Herzog, center, and UK Foreign Minister David Cameron, in Jerusalem, April 17, 2024. (Maayan Toaf / GPO)

“I hope that will happen at the meeting,” he added.

Asked about fears of a wider regional conflict, Cameron called the situation “very concerning.”

Cameron also met with senior leaders and officials during his time in the region. They included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz, as well as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa.

His trip coincided with a visit by his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock. The pair were the first Western diplomats to visit Israel since Iran’s direct attack on the country over the weekend.

Their missions came as Western allies haggled with Israel over how to respond to Iran, which fired hundreds of drones and ballistic and cruise missiles at the country overnight Saturday-Sunday. While Israel has vowed to strike back at Iran, its allies are urging restraint to prevent an already tinderbox situation from exploding into a major regional war.

Baerbock said she made clear during talks with Netanyahu and Herzog that the Middle East must not be allowed to slide into a scenario whose outcome is completely unpredictable.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron (left) meets with Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem on April 17, 2024 (Sivan Shahor/GPO)

“Everyone must now act prudently and responsibly,” said Baerbock before departing Israel on Wednesday for the G7 meeting.

Continued tensions with Iran “would serve no one, not Israel’s security, not the many dozens of hostages still in the hands of Hamas, not the suffering population of Gaza, not the many people in Iran who are themselves suffering under the regime, and not the third countries in the region who simply want to live in peace,” she said.

Following the talks with Cameron and Baerbock, Herzog urged the international community to confront Iran.

“The whole world must work decisively and defiantly against the threat by the Iranian regime, which is seeking to undermine the stability of the whole region,” Herzog said in a statement issued by his office.

“Israel is unequivocal in its commitment to defending its people,” he added.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, April 17, 2024. (Maayan Toaf / GPO)

Katz, in his meetings with Cameron and Baerbock, urged them to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terror group.

“Iran and its proxies endanger regional and global stability. Now we have an opportunity to curb Iran,” he was quoted by his office as telling the envoys. “It’s time to call the Revolutionary Guards by their real name – a terrorist organization – and impose painful sanctions on Iran’s missile project.”

Germany, a staunch ally of Israel, has been among the chorus of European and US leaders urging Israel to de-escalate tensions and not retaliate for Tehran’s attack, which was almost entirely repelled thanks to US and allied help.

An image grab from a video taken early on April 14, 2024, shows the Dome of the Rock atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, with the lights of missile interceptions visible in the night sky, early on April 14, 2024, after Iran fired ballistic missiles at Israel (AFP)

The US said late Tuesday it would soon impose fresh sanctions on Iran’s missile and drone program following the weekend assault, and that it expected its allies and partners to follow with parallel measures.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s announcement came after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen indicated punitive measures were in the works, and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said his office was working on it.

“In the coming days, the United States will impose new sanctions targeting Iran, including its missile and drone program” as well as the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian defense ministry, Sullivan said.

“We anticipate that our allies and partners will soon be following with their own sanctions,” he added. “These new sanctions and other measures will continue a steady drumbeat of pressure to contain and degrade Iran’s military capacity and effectiveness and confront the full range of its problematic behaviors.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Iran launched more than 300 missiles, drones, and rockets at Israel over the weekend, in what it said was retaliation for a deadly strike on what Tehran claims as a consulate in Damascus that killed two of its army generals and several other officers. Nearly all of the projectiles fired at Israel were intercepted, and there was little damage.

G7 to seek restraint

Under Italy’s rotating stewardship, the G7 leaders are expected to issue a united call for Israel to exercise restraint.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said he had spoken to his Israeli counterpart, Katz, on Tuesday and urged Israel to not only de-escalate any reaction to Iran’s attack but to refrain from a planned offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah amid the ongoing war with Hamas in the Palestinian enclave. Israel’s looming operation in the city faces major international concerns at the possibly large number of civilian casualties that would ensue.

“I reiterated this message and I believe that on the occasion of the G7 foreign ministers in Capri, tomorrow and Friday morning, a similar message will be sent,” Tajani told state-run RAI.

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