The game of nerves continues. Israel nudged Iran, showing that more will come

The response to the massive Iranian missile and drone attack on Israel is just a warning signal. The Jews succumbed to the pressure of allies from the West and the Middle East not to intensify the spiral of tension. They contented themselves with showing the ayatollahs that they were capable of more serious strikes at any time.

The threat of regional war hangs over the Middle East like the sword of Damocles. Recently it has been dangling much lower over the heads of millions of Jewish, Arab and Persian inhabitants of the region. Fortunately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not allow Iran to be drawn into an open war, which could be provoked by a frontal response to the Iranian attack on Israel. In return, Israel was supposed to obtain US consent to complete the crackdown on Hamas in Gaza. Satisfied with such a compromise, the Jews settled for a small nudge near Isfahan, allowing them to save face in the clash with Iran.

The media in Tehran is proving to the world that there was no attack, and if there was, there is no need to react. This is a convenient solution for a regime that has just collided with a tight coalition of Arab Sunnis, Jews, Americans and Europeans defending Israel. This moment of respite will last until the conditions for a larger Israeli retort emerge. Or when it comes to light what the Israeli drones actually hit and how much this nudge hurt Iran. That it must have hurt results from the logic of revenge that has ruled the region for decades. Contrary to what is commonly believed about the unpredictability of this explosive corner of the world, beneath the Levantine emphasis lie cold calculations that organize the pecking order.

Action must give rise to reaction. Israel must retaliate against Iran, just as Iran previously retaliated against Israel in response to some earlier retaliation.

As I know it, the ayatollahs do not stop at ostentatiously downplaying Israel's response. They are certainly already planning their next move, assuming that no real response has taken place – after all, Israel has traded it for a free hand in Gaza. This spiral never stops turning. If the generally applicable laws of physics were applied here, everything should have broken a long time ago. The latest clash in the decades-long rivalry between Jews and ayatollahs shows how important – perhaps the most important – is winding up the spring.

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