The Iranian Weapons Ship, Ad Nauseam

Israelis didn’t need four days of the same TV footage to be convinced that their guys are great.

Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus
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Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus

1. Many people watching TV over the last week and a half got the feeling that this lemon called the Iranian weapons ship has been squeezed too dry. One reason is the impression that the ship’s arrival in Eilat was delayed until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife finished their stay in Hollywood.

A great deal has been said about the stellar coverage. Viewers didn’t need four days of the same footage to be convinced that our guys are great – even though it wasn’t a warship, it was a merchant ship whose crew was honored at the end of the journey with two crates of vodka.

For two days we were shown the same rocket in its container, which got viewers thinking that this was the only rocket we seized. And the operation was accompanied by a Hollywood-style live broadcast. For the first time generals were shown running the show and reaping the glory, straight from the General Staff’s command pit.

The quantity of munitions seized impressed the inexperienced viewer. They seized 400,000 rifle bullets? remarked a retired general with a smile. “We use a similar number of bullets in one brigade exercise.”

As far as the heavy missiles are concerned (170 kilograms per head), similar ones have already been launched – during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza five years ago. Our air force has already dropped a one-ton bomb. The real accomplishment was the successful intelligence.

So what was unusual here? That Iran is helping terror organizations? Or as Bibi put it, that the day will come when they put nuclear weapons in suitcases. Suitcases? In one night Islamic Jihad sent a quarter of the country into bomb shelters.

2. The opposition leader is one of the state’s seven symbols, in third place between the Knesset speaker and the Supreme Court president. But Isaac Herzog doesn’t need this prestige; his father was president. Herzog has a good understanding of politics. Back in the day he helped Ehud Barak get elected prime minister, not only by raising money but by political connections.

His problem is that he looks like a good boy from a good home. He doesn’t look like someone who’ll ever defeat Netanyahu with his basso profundo voice, and former Labor chief Shelly Yacimovich ignored him. But not only did he defeat her, he made her disappear.

Herzog, unlike Yacimovich, aspires to power even at the price of a deal with Netanyahu on a peace agreement. Since becoming Labor chief he has met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. As someone who aspires to greatness, he has prepared himself to succeed Bibi. The ante of admiration for him upped suddenly when the opposition left the Knesset during discussions on the coalition’s “package deal” of laws.

The promise by MK Aryeh Deri (Shas) that the ultra-Orthodox aren’t in Bibi’s pocket also did the job. Israelis suddenly consider Herzog a serious rival to Bibi. If the prime minister can rule with his party’s 20 MKs, Herzog is a threat with 16.

3. “I ordered the removal of the threat to Israel’s citizens at any price,” Bibi says repeatedly. But if he wants to remain the first tenor in the opera of threats against Iran, he missed out. Bibi is fighting yesterday’s wars. It’s hard for him to part from Iran and accept that as a threshold nuclear state it no longer interests anyone.

U.S. President Barack Obama is not about to embark on a war so deep in his second term. He is preoccupied with events in Vladimir Putin’s empire. Kerry, who is immersed in the new crisis, is slowly but surely reducing his involvement in our negotiations, which are leading nowhere. Recently he cast doubt on the assumption that both sides really want peace.

Soon they’ll be quarreling over whether to release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners, and people will be asking what peace negotiator Tzipi Livni has accomplished. Meanwhile, Bibi will break the record for years in the prime minister’s chair. We can say goodbye to peace.

IDF soldiers take a selfie with the seized weapons in Eilat, March 10 2014.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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