Israel will retaliate against an alleged Iranian attack on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea — and unilaterally, if need be, according to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
“They can’t sit calmly in Tehran while igniting the entire Middle East — that’s over,” Bennett said Tuesday while meeting with military officials in northern Israel. “We are working to enlist the whole world, but when the time comes, we know how to act alone.”
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Bennett’s statement would seem to raise the likelihood of a high-profile clash between Israel and Iran, a development with domestic and diplomatic significance. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged a “collective response” to the incident, which killed two civilians — one from the United Kingdom and another from Romania.
“We join Allies in strongly condemning the recent fatal attack on the MV Mercer Street off the coast of Oman, and express our condolences to Romania and the United Kingdom for the losses they have suffered,” a NATO spokesperson said Tuesday. “Freedom of navigation is vital for all NATO Allies, and must be upheld in accordance with international law. The United Kingdom, the United States, and Romania have concluded that Iran is highly likely responsible for this incident. Allies remain concerned by Iran's destabilizing actions in the region, and call on Tehran to respect its international obligations.”
Still, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Bennett ousted in June, is accusing Bennett of running the risk that President Joe Biden’s administration will sabotage an Israeli strike.
“The information that is sent to America could be leaked to major media outlets, and in this way, our operations will be thwarted,” Netanyahu told the Israeli Legislature. “This is an existential issue for Israel, in which there may be surprises, and sometimes surprises are needed.”
Bennett leads a fragile coalition with a thin majority. As a right-wing leader who draws support from some of the same lawmakers most likely to be sympathetic to Netanyahu’s critique, he could sense a political need to fortify his security credentials.
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“Iran knows the price that we’ll exact when anyone threatens our security,” Bennett said.