THE bombing on Monday of the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus – in which seven people were killed, including two generals in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – is widely believed to have been perpetrated by Israel.

The attack comes at a time when the UK and US governments claim they want to avoid what they euphemistically call the “conflict” in Gaza from escalating into a wider war in the Middle East. Yet it is hard to imagine an act more likely to lead to a widening of hostilities than this brazen assassination of senior military officers of a sovereign state while they are in a diplomatic building in a third country.

As is typical in situations such as this, Israel has made no comment, and it is unlikely that it will do so in the near future. However, the far-right coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu is happy for it to be known that it targeted Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi and General Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi because of their roles in co-ordinating what Iran calls “the axis of resistance” – meaning the series of non-state actors who are backed by Tehran, from Hamas in Palestine, to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen.

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While Israel hides behind its customary refusal to comment, the silence in Washington and London is deafening. Yet imagine if, on the pretext that the US is arming Ukraine, Russia bombed the US embassy in Berlin killing American military top brass who were inside the building.

The outrage in Berlin, Washington, and capitals throughout the West would be immeasurable. Putin would be condemned for his flagrant and murderous disregard for American life and for the sovereignty of both the US and Germany. A Third World War would probably be closer than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

So why, when the likes of President Joe Biden (below) and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak continue to insist on their commitment to a rules-based international order, is Israel allowed to act with such breathtaking impunity?

The National: US President Joe Biden (Matt Kelley/AP, File)

As is well established, Israel is by far the largest recipient of US military and financial aid (around $3.3 billion per annum in recent years, with another $14bn in emergency military assistance passed by the US Congress less than two months ago).

And what these extraordinary sums of money purchase for the US is an Israeli state that is fully integrated into the Americans’ international military network.

As I wrote in a recent column for this newspaper, it was the British who originally believed that a Zionist state would, in the words of Sir Ronald Storrs, the senior UK official in Palestine, be Britain’s “little loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism”.

However, as from the 1940s onwards the US replaced the UK as the predominant Western power, the Americans took on the role of Israel’s chief backer and the primary beneficiary of the Zionist state’s ability to flex its increasingly substantial military muscle in a Middle East which was both rich in oil and (thanks not least to the Suez Canal) also strategically crucial to global trade.

As the BBC’s international editor Jeremy Bowen explained, when asked about the Damascus attack, between them Israel and the US have a massive capacity for collecting intelligence on targets such as Zahedi and Hajriahimi.

Although the sheer extent of the genocide in Gaza has begun to, finally, embarrass the US government (both internationally and in the eyes of its own people), it seems highly unlikely that Netanyahu would have ordered the Damascus attack without the Americans’ knowledge and agreement.

Indeed, Israel carrying out the attack, and refusing to acknowledge it, suits Washington perfectly: it hits Iran, the US’s foremost enemy in the region, while allowing the Americans to deny any involvement.

Much is being made about the seeming rupture between the Biden and Sunak administrations and the Israeli government. This is reflected, many commentators suggest, in the US and UK air drops into Gaza and the recent ceasefire vote in the UN (in which the UK voted in favour of a conditional ceasefire and the US abstained, rather than use its customary veto).

The National: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Ohad Zwigenberg/AP)

However, the depth and seriousness of the disagreement between Biden and Netanyahu (above) is being grossly exaggerated. The aid drops represent a miniscule fraction of the food required by Gaza’s starving population. Like the votes at the UN, they are a cynical attempt to relieve pressure (both international and from an increasingly outraged domestic public opinion) on the US and UK governments. Behind this belated seeming concern for Palestinian life, it is business as usual in terms of Western support for the Israeli war machine.

Asked about the supposed fissure between the US and Israel represented by the Americans’ abstention on the UN resolution, the US government’s national security communications adviser John Kirby said: “We still have Israel’s back… [We] are still providing tools and capabilities, weapons systems [to Israel].”

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While the US and UK continue with the window dressing exercise that is the aid drops, every expert agrees that the only way to alleviate the burgeoning famine in Gaza is by getting aid in via the road crossings from Israel and Egypt.

Yet the US, which provides crucial finance and weaponry not only to Israel but also to the Egyptian military junta, refuses to take the obvious humanitarian step of threatening to withdraw all support to Tel Aviv and Cairo until the crossings are opened to aid convoys.

In fact, such is the impunity granted to Israel by the US and its Western allies – even now, as the death toll in Gaza nears a horrifying 33,000 – that Israel’s flagrant attack on an aid truck in Gaza yesterday (which killed seven people from Australia, Canada/the US, Palestine, Poland and the UK) has resulted in nothing more than a diplomatic slap on the wrist.

Forget the Pilate-style handwringing by US and British leaders regarding the fate of the people of Gaza, this is a genocide made not only in Tel Aviv, but also in Washington, DC and London.