Israel Will Respond to Iranian Attack With or Without US Backing, Knesset Member Says

‘We will do whatever it is that needs to be done by ourselves,’ Ohad Tal tells Free Beacon

Ohad Tal (Wikimedia commons)
April 16, 2024

Israel will respond to Iran’s weekend missile strike on the country even if it must do so without backing from the Biden administration, an Israeli lawmaker told the Washington Free Beacon in a wide-ranging interview Monday.

Ohad Tal, a conservative Israeli Knesset member who serves on its security and foreign affairs committee, said Israel has no choice but to fight back against Tehran, raising the likelihood of an increasingly dangerous conflict with the Islamic Republic that has, until recently, only been fought by Iran’s terrorist proxies, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

With the Biden administration pressuring Israel to stand down amid Iran’s terror spree, Tal said the Jewish state is willing to strike back alone, even if it strains relations between the United States and its top Middle East ally.

"If we will have America with us, that will be great. But if America will not be with us, we will do whatever it is that needs to be done by ourselves," Tal said during an interview in Washington, D.C., where he is meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to discuss the unfolding situation. "At the end of the day, Israel has to protect itself. Israel has to do what is in the best interest of Israel, and what will ensure the survival of Israel."

The bottom line is, he said, "we don't have any alternative but to respond to this brutal attack."

Tal, a member of Israel’s National Religious Party, an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative governing coalition, said that American lawmakers and those in the Biden administration must understand that "Israel cannot afford not to respond to what Iran did," adding that a stand down order would invite further attacks from the Islamic Republic and its terrorist allies.

While Tal would not discuss options for an Israeli response, citing the highly classified nature of that information, he emphasized that "we will do whatever is needed to be done in order to respond to" the attack by Iran.

Tal’s comments highlight the increasing tension between Israel and the Biden administration, which has shifted its stance on the conflict with Hamas in recent weeks. Following the Oct. 7 terror attacks, the United States signaled unified support for Israel’s military, but, in recent weeks, has been calling for a ceasefire that would leave Hamas strongholds in the Gaza Strip intact.

Tal's remarks are in line with other on record and anonymous remarks by Israeli officials in recent days.

"Everybody agrees that Israel must respond. How to respond, when to respond, is the question," an Israeli official told the Washington Post this week, adding that an upcoming operation would be meant to "send a message" to Tehran.

Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, said on Tuesday, "Iran will not get [off] scot-free with this aggression," and that Israel "cannot stand still from this kind of aggression."

Israeli political leaders like Tal said the U.S. message to Israel is clear: "America will not back you in response to this brutal attack."

Tal expressed dismay at the Biden administration’s current policies, saying that U.S. pressure on Israel is signaling to the country’s enemies that the nation is weak. In addition to accusing Israel of withholding humanitarian aid from the Gaza Strip, the Biden administration also has sanctioned Jews it claims are fomenting violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

"When you see that the current administration [is] using all its influence to speak about settler violence, which is a completely fabricated campaign, when you see the president enforcing personal sanctions against Israeli citizens who live in Judea and Samaria, just like myself, that sends a horrible, horrible message in the Middle East," Tal said.

American efforts to push a two-state solution in the wake of Hamas’s attack also sends the message that if you "use terror you’ll get what you want."

An Israeli strike on Iran could weaken the Islamic Republic’s growing alliance with Russia, China, and North Korea, Tal said, adding that this message is key to building American support for a possible response.

"Hurting them now, hurting this regime now can create a situation which also will weaken the alliance of China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia," he said. "Destabilizing the Iranian regime can [create] a real strategic change for America, and will weaken this alliance and will strengthen America and their allies."

Asked about Iran’s nuclear program and the regime’s progress toward an atomic bomb, Tal said that Israel is paying close attention and will not hesitate to get involved, with or without U.S. backing.

"If America will not do what needs to be done in order to prevent that from happening, Israel will do what we can do in order to prevent that from happening," Tal said.