PM to urge restraint in message to Netanyahu after Iranian attack

The Prime Minister is expected to speak to his Israeli counterpart on Tuesday.

Christopher McKeon
Tuesday 16 April 2024 00:01 BST
Rishi Sunak (Benjamin Cremel/PA)
Rishi Sunak (Benjamin Cremel/PA) (PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak is set to urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to show restraint on Tuesday after the thwarting of an Iranian attack over the weekend.

Britain joined the US and other allies in shooting down Iranian attack drones on Saturday night, and has subsequently joined the US in urging calm in the region.

The Prime Minister had been due to speak to Mr Netanyahu on Monday, but with the Israeli prime minister locked in a war cabinet this proved not to be possible.

In a Commons statement, Mr Sunak said he would “express our solidarity with Israel in the face of this attack” and “discuss how we can prevent further escalation”.

The Foreign Secretary is also expected to visit Israel soon, and on Monday urged Tel Aviv to be “smart as well as tough” by not escalating the conflict with Iran.

Israel is still considering its response to Saturday night’s attack, which saw Iran launch around 350 drones and missiles, but on Monday night said the barrage “will be met with a response”.

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Netanyahu’s official account said his country “deeply appreciates the support of the United States, Britain, France and others in thwarting the Iranian attack against Israel”.

He added: “Directly and through its terror proxies Hamas and others, Iran is conducting a full-scale campaign of aggression that threatens not only Israel but the entire Middle East.

“The international community must continue to stand united in resisting this Iranian aggression, which threatens world peace.”

Mr Netanyahu has already spoken to US President Joe Biden and congressional majority leader Steve Scalise, according to posts on X.

Meanwhile, former defence secretary Ben Wallace urged the Government to use its defence of Israel as leverage to secure Israeli support for Ukraine.

Mr Wallace, writing in The Daily Telegraph, said Israel had been “absent” from the list of countries donating weapons and other items to Ukraine, and that he had “pleaded” with the country’s ambassador but been told Israel “didn’t want to upset Russia”.

He said: “We stand by Israel because we share common values, oppose terrorism and respect sovereignty. But if pilots of the RAF are to help protect Israel, then we should expect Israel to help Ukraine with lethal weapons and other assets, because alliances work both ways.”

The former cabinet minister also called for a strong response to Iran’s attack, saying the UK was “weak” in Tehran’s eyes.

He said: “I have learnt, working against Britain’s adversaries, that the only way to deal with a bully is to retaliate.

“The only option when Iran and Russia hit, I have concluded, is to hit back twice as hard and not stop until they get the message.”

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