Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
was thousands of miles away when elite IDF
forces overtook an Iranian vessel carrying arms to the Gaza Strip, it had already appeared in his speech at AIPAC Tuesday.
"(Iran) wheels out its smiling president and its smooth-talking foreign minister. But if you listen to their words, their soothing words, they don’t square with Iran’s aggressive actions.
"Because … Iran
sends abroad rockets, terrorists and missiles to murder, maim and menace the innocent," Netanyahu told a jam-packed hall at annual policy conference of the pro-Israel
lobby hours before news broke of the raid.
It was announced on Wednesday afternoon that Israel seized Iranian ship Klos C, which was carrying advanced weapons destined for Gaza. Elite troops from the Israel Navy's Shayetet 13 unit boarded the ship in open waters on the maritime border of Sudan and Eritrea, some 1,500 km south of Israel, and found the cargo of advanced rockets capable of reaching distances of up to 200 km.
Overnight, Netanyahu conducted a number of meetings with security officials before authorizing the open-seas IDF operation. The IDF was closely monitoring the ships' movements since it left Tehran some ten days ago. But sources close to the prime minister stress he was involved beforehand as well.
After the forces successfully completed the raid, Netanyahu spoke with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon,
who was with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz
and Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo at an IDF command center, and praised both "the exact intelligence supplied" and the operations swift and clean execution.
Ya'alon at command center (Photo: Ariel Hermoni,GPO)
Netanyahu called it "a perfect operation, capturing an undercover Iranian arms ship," but also warned of Iran's new conciliatory rhetoric and diplomacy.
"At a time when it is negotiating with the major powers, Iran smiles and says all sorts of nice things, the same Iran is sending deadly weapons to terrorist organizations and is doing so through a complex network of covert operations in an attempt to send rockets, missiles and other deadly weapons that will be used to harm innocent citizens."
'Made in Iran' (Photo: IDF Spokesperson Unit)Connecting the incident with his repeatedly stated objections to Iran's nuclear program, Netanyahu claimed the event proved that Iran cannot be allowed to continue uranium enrichment. Such a scenario, Netanyahu claimed, would leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state.
"This is true Iran," Netanyahu said. "This state cannot possess nuclear weapons. We will continue to whatever is necessary in order to defend Israel's citizens."
Ya'alon echoed his claims, saying, "It has once again become clear that Iran is the greatest exporter of terror in the world. In complete violation of international law it abuses maritime trading routes (and) supplies financial support, arms and training to terror organizations.
"The Iranian regime continues to deceive the world - while presenting a smiling face, it continues to pose the biggest threat to world peace," Ya'alon added.
Israel is planning on using the incident to highlight Iran's terror funding activates and its web of terrorist proxies, in the hopes of influencing nuclear talks currently underway between Iran and world powers.