The Toxic Mutually Beneficial Relationship between Iran and Israel

Karl H Christ
3 min readApr 22, 2024


Iran really gave Israel’s government a gift last week. Generally, a barrage of rockets and drones wouldn’t be considered a gift, but Israel and Iran just have that kind of relationship. Israel conducts espionage, assassinations, and military assaults against Iranians and Iranian assets; Iran aids militant organizations who attempt much the same, if generally less effectively, against Israel. It’s a real cat-and-mouse/love-hate/will-they-won’t-they relationship of military brinkmanship and vitriolic rhetoric they’ve got going. Much of their effort seems spent justifying their existence to those who otherwise wouldn’t ally with either by their opposition to one another. Iran gets some support in the region from its adversarial relationship with Israel, and if the US didn’t hate Iran so pathologically, who knows if Israel would have even become such a valued client state in the region.

While Iran’s failed direct attack against Israel has been correctly described as unprecedented, specifically, what is sometimes omitted from that assertion is that the attack was in fact preceded by years of tit-for-tat attacks, in which Israel has historically been bolder and was the most recent aggressor, bombing the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1st. What is also left out is the likelihood that Iranian leadership knew full well that their attack would fail. They know Israel’s defensive capabilities and those of its allies in the region, and they gave pretty clear warning of what was coming. They knew that most or all of their weapons would be shot down. It was all just part of the demented game that countries play with each other when they want to look tough and like they’re ready to go to war even though they’re not and really don’t want to.

None of this is meant to justify the actions of Iran’s governments. I have no more fondness for them than I do the government of Israel, and would be spending a lot more time criticizing them if they were carrying out a US-armed and -funded genocide. Their behavior is, however, not inexplicable or irrational. Rather than being mad, destructive despots, as US and Israeli government officials describe them, their behavior indicates that they have and will act as anyone could expect them to act and that their actions are calculated. If they were truly as insane and dangerous and intent on Israel’s destruction as they’re characterized and have at times postured as being, they’d blanket their enemy nation with dirty bombs. They’d actually go to war against them.

Instead, they gave the Israeli government, and Netanyahu in particular, the gift of distraction, distraction from the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, and the justification to continue and expand their military campaign. More and more of the world has been turning against Israel, no longer willing to ignore its war crimes and human rights abuses. Their lies and excuses have been failing as the truth of their ethnic cleansing campaign has been broadcast in real-time. What better way to turn the world’s attention away and divert blame than by getting into a war with a generally globally reviled country? They’ve already been using the “fog of war” to carry out their goals, orchestrating pogroms and land thefts in the West Bank while the world has been watching Gaza. When the media becomes focused on the bigger story of a regional, potentially apocalyptic war between Israel and Iran and whatever allies get dragged into it, they’ll hardly notice that the Palestinians have at last been fully exterminated and Israel’s borders extended.

How does Iran benefit from this, other than that it allows the theocratic regime to increase their control over the population? Going to war is a well-worn technique for unpopular governments to cling to power, increasing loyalty among their population, and potentially garnering support from would-be allies.

Honestly, if I was just a little more conspiracy-minded, I’d be inclined to believe that the whole conflict between Israel and Iran was a coordinated operation between the two. Two terrible governments, unpopular domestically, regionally, and internationally, playing out the motions of a war in order to reinforce their power. Whether or not the two are in fact conspiring together, they’ve surely both calculated the outcome.