Clip: Attacks in Israel and Iran bring more uncertainty to Middle East

Apr. 19, 2024 AT 8:36 p.m. EDT

Israel and Iran are trading threats and attacks, bringing more uncertainty to the Middle East. The panel explores how President Biden and other world leaders may be influencing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to show restraint.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Jeffrey Goldberg: You've been particularly peripatetic these days. You were in Poland last week, you were in Israel, you just got back a day or so ago. Do you think that after last night's Israeli limited response to the latest -- to the big barrage of missiles earlier this week, do you think that we're done for right now in this back and forth between Iran and Israel?

Graeme Wood: So, I think this particular exchange is probably concluded because both parties have shown by the type of response that they've had, they didn't want it to get out of hand. They didn't want direct confrontation that's limitless, that keeps on going on.

What they did want to see was, what happens with this iterative process where Iran does something, Israel does something, to get to a new equilibrium. And the new equilibrium is a dangerous one. I mean, both countries are apparently willing to attack each other from their own soil.

But the question of whether it's done with Iran, the answer is no, never. It's never done. Because Iran has this long term strategy of supporting not just enemies of Israel within the Israeli borders but also just in the region. I mean, the Houthis in Syria, in Iraq, and Iran has shown that nothing is going to stop it from continuing to use that strategy.

Jeffrey Goldberg: So this phase is over, but it's just one continuous struggle. So, that brings me to this question about President Biden and his relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

It seems like there's been a little bit of a reset in their relationship. And by that, I mean it seems as if Netanyahu is actually listening a bit to Joe Biden now or is that -- am I over indexing?

Graeme Wood: Yes, you might be a little bit too optimistic. But, you know, the hope was that during this last week, so much has changed, so much of the narrative could have changed, and it was a frozen and very bad narrative for a number of reasons in the Gaza war.

But what can Netanyahu make of this? I mean, there're many Israelis who wish he would just disappear. But the next best thing would be for something in the frozen conflict, in the frozen situation to move. Maybe that could happen but now I'm starting to sound naive too.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Vivian, you want to join in the naivete? Would you like to be appropriately cynical?

Vivian Salama: I definitely -- no, I'm very cynical all the time. I definitely don't think that it was a reset in the relationship. I think it just, if anything, kind of kicked the can down the road a little bit. President Biden is still quite frustrated with Netanyahu. He did not want him to show any aggression toward Iran just because he was worried about a wider war.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Right.

Vivian Salama: Netanyahu did it anyway. You know, I think they're relieved that it was as limited as it is so far, but anything can turn. And so I think that the White House is still very concerned and they do not feel like they have enough leverage at this point over Netanyahu to control his actions, and so that is a very uncomfortable place to be.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Right. Is that -- go on, Eugene.

Eugene Daniels: I mean, you can tell the White House's response today, right? We're in the briefing room today. today when Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary, would not even answer, wouldn't even broach the subject. And the reason is --

Jeffrey Goldberg: She was asked directly?

Eugene Daniels: Asked directly about what happened. She kind of just started the briefing with, like I'm not going to answer, you're going to be pissed, you can keep asking, but I'm not going to answer. That continued the entire briefing because they want to stay out of it as well. Because if Iran and Israel are quiet and we stay quiet, the hope is that if the can does get kicked down the road, it goes much further than it was.

And I will say on Biden-Netanyahu's relationship, these moments bring to mind the Bill Clinton adage of who's the superpower here. There was an expletive there, but I'm going to spare because it's PBS. But that is the question, right? And you're, you're seeing a lot of experts saying it is starting to get embarrassing that President Biden is saying, don't do this, Netanyahu, don't do this, Israel, and then they ignore him completely.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Do you think that without all this constant pressure that Netanyahu might have done something more dramatic today to Iran?

Graeme Wood: I think it's possible.

Jeffrey Goldberg: I mean, it was three missiles.

Graeme Wood: We've got to understand, too, what type of pressure Netanyahu was under. I'll speak with a rare note of sympathy with Bibi here, because if your country is attacked with 300 drones and ballistic missiles and you do nothing, I don't think there's any country that would allow an attack like that to go completely unanswered. And the answer that he gave was not one that seems to have claimed many lives or property or much at all. So, it's a rather soft response from that perspective.

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