Three high-ranking officers in the Israeli army — Shaul Mofaz, Gadi Eizenkot and Eyal Zamir — grew up in Eilat when that far-flung, sleepy harbor town began to wake up and develop during the decade between the 1956 Sinai Campaign and the 1967 Six-Day War.
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During his term as defense minister in 2002, Mofaz, together with the Israel Air Force commander at the time, Dan Halutz, were present when, the same day that terrorists in the Kenyan city of Mombasa fired shoulder-launched missiles at an Israeli passenger jet and suicide bombers there bombed an Israeli-owned hotel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called on Likud members to vote for him (rather than his rival, Benjamin Netanyahu) in the party primary.
So there is nothing original about the show Netanyahu put on today, when he publicly displayed the weapons discovered after the Israel Navy raided the Klos C last week. Perhaps the most noteworthy element of Monday’s event is the opportunity it has given to Eizenkot, the deputy chief of staff, and Zamir, the prime minister’s military secretary, to visit the city where they were born.
The order he gave to the officers — to take part in Netanyahu’s show — was not completely illegal, nor was there any reason to disobey it. Still, it gives off a bad odor. The relief over the successful interception of the rocket-laden Klos C was genuine. That was enough. Heating up the cold noodles five days later just because Netanyahu had been out of the country when the Iranian shipment was seized on its way to the Gaza Strip, and therefore absent from the photographs of the generals at the naval outpost, crosses the line of bad taste.
The wisdom of Netanyahu’s press conference at Eilat Port, where the ship was escorted, is dubious as well. Everybody knows that Iran supplies arms to groups working against Israel from Gaza and Lebanon. The documentation of the captured weapons does not change people’s awareness. As a backdrop for Netanyahu’s propaganda, the Klos C is problematic. Iran does not deny its support for groups that take hostile action against Israel; it takes pride in it. What does that have to do with the fight of the superpowers against Iranian military nukes?
And Israel’s condemnation of Iran as a liar is ridiculous. From David Ben-Gurion’s time to the present, Israel has lied when it believed it had to do so to avoid punishment: the day after Israel’s attack on the village of Qibya; the time when Adolf Eichmann was kidnapped from Argentina and brought to Israel; when Israel would not admit to having recruited Jonathan Pollard. Native English speakers, whom Netanyahu tries so hard to amuse with anecdotes and aphorisms and by mentioning popular commercials, are not usually impressed when a pot calls a kettle black.
Of course, there have been official representatives of Israel who did not know they were not telling the truth, since their combative colleagues were laughing behind their backs — Moshe Sharett, for example, when fellow leaders of the country like Ben-Gurion, Pinhas Lavon and Moshe Dayan did not bother to tell him what exactly they had decided to do.
It is quite likely that Iran’s Quds Force and Revolutionary Guards are doing to Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif what the defense officials did to Sharett. Is all of this being done with the blessing of supreme religious leader Ali Khamenei? That is not certain. A high-ranking Israeli intelligence official said last week that Quds Force chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani is serving as a kind of “Sir Francis Drake” for Khamenei. The intelligence officer got confused, it seems, between two pirates/admirals in the service of England’s Queen Elizabeth in the 16th century, and was actually referring to Sir Walter Raleigh. While Drake died of disease, Raleigh was imprisoned, accused of conspiracy to commit treason against the crown and beheaded. The moral is that if Soleimani is not careful, he could go beyond the limits Khamenei has set for him, become a threat to the regime and maybe even lose his head.
As for the executions in Iran, the death penalty also exists in Saudi Arabia and in Texas, not just in Tehran (it is likely that oil and blood mix more easily in certain places). Human rights violations are not generally enough to stop Israel from having relationships with countries it believes are vital to it, its security or its economy.
Even if Netanyahu’s Hollywood-style propaganda is a smashing success, it will quickly become self-defeating, since the question will turn into: What is Israel willing to give Iran in return for what it will receive from it? A mutual moratorium on nuclear programs? A cease-fire in the shadow war (no espionage, no assassinations, no relationships with those hostile to the regime)?
The show in Eilat is needless boasting that serves no purpose. It does nothing but overshadow a legitimate military operation and harness it to the empty actions of a politician who fears losing support at home and abroad.