(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled on Monday to tour the Eilat naval base where the Klos C was docked, to highlight Iran’s support for terrorists a day after urging EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to raise the issue during her visit to Tehran.
Netanyahu said he would like to ask Ashton “if she asked her Iranian hosts about this shipment of weapons for terrorist organizations, and if not, why not.” He was speaking at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
“Nobody has the right to ignore the true and murderous actions of the regime in Tehran,” he told ministers. “I think that it would be proper for the international community to refer to Iran’s true policy, not its propaganda.”
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz was even blunter in his criticism of Ashton, telling reporters before the meeting that he would have expected the top EU diplomat to either cancel or postpone her trip – her first to Iran and the first visit there of an EU foreign policy chief since 2008 – as a result of the interception of the Iranian-backed vessel carrying Syrian-made missiles to terrorist organizations in Gaza.
“The Iranian government was caught here in the very grave act of smuggling heavy missiles to terrorist organizations, while abrogating all the UN resolutions that clamp an arms embargo to and from Iran,” Steinitz said. “I think in this situation one should refrain from going to talk to the Iranians as though nothing had happened.”
Netanyahu reiterated at the cabinet meeting what he has said repeatedly since the ship was intercepted
last week – that the IDF action had two distinct goals: preventing the delivery of deadly weapons to terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, and “exposing the true face of Iran, which was behind the weapons shipment.”
Netanyahu accused Iran of “lying in the most brazen manner” in denying any involvement with the ship. He pledged that Israel would “present evidence” of Iranian involvement on Monday and in the coming days.
Although Iran’s involvement in the arms smuggling has no direct relation to its nuclear program, it does, one government official said, remind the world of the true nature of the Iranian regime.
“Iran with a nuclear weapon is not just another country with a nuclear weapon,” the official said. “It is the difference between Pakistan with its current government in possession of a bomb, and Pakistan ruled by the Taliban in possession of a bomb. This is an extremist regime, and the terrorism it supports is just one manifestation of that extremism. How many countries on the planet send weapons to terrorist organizations?”
The official said that by going to Eilat on Monday, Netanyahu will underline the fact that despite the more moderate tone of the Iranian leadership when they engage with Ashton and the international community, Iran’s policies have fundamentally not changed.
Netanyahu will be joined in Eilat by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and Navy commander V.-Adm. Ram Rotenberg.
On Sunday night, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz spoke with navy personnel who took part in Operation Full Exposure to intercept the shipment of M-302 rockets destined for Gaza.
Gantz said the IDF’s fight to prevent Israel’s enemies from growing stronger and arming themselves with “critical components that have a strategic influence” did not end with the arrival of the ship in Eilat.
“The equipment must be organized, and then it’s time to go back to work. There will be many more missions,” Gantz stated.
“The mission was not simple. It involved many procedures in the IDF and the navy over a long period. It necessitated that every one of you remain at sea for a long time. The results are before you,” the chief of staff continued.
“Every one of these rockets is a security challenge to the State of Israel and its citizens. Every bullet and rocket we found had an address,” he said.