'Arms smuggling threatens Mideast balance of power'

Deputy FM tells diplomats that Iran, Syria trying to boost capabilities of non-state actors give them edge over moderate regimes in region.

Danny Ayalon 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Danny Ayalon 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Iran and Syria are trying to boost the capabilities of non-state actors and give them a “quantitative and qualitative” edge over the moderate regimes in the region, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Wednesday.
Ayalon’s comments came at a briefing for foreign diplomats and journalists at the Ashdod port, where the arms confiscated from the Victoria cargo ship were put on display. Ayalon briefed about 100 ambassadors, diplomats and military attaches from around the world, leading the Foreign Ministry’s efforts to drive home to the international community the danger that the smuggling of arms into Gaza poses for Israel and the region.
“What we saw yesterday is just the tip of the iceberg,” Ayalon said. “The arms are not trickling drip by drip, as in the past, but are literally flooding into the hands of dangerous terrorist groups by air, sea and land, threatening to upset the military balance and undermine regional stability in the Middle East and the southern Mediterranean rim of Europe.”
The flood of arms, Ayalon said, “is creating a tipping point which could soon result in the balance of power shifting dramatically and permanently in favor of Iran and its allies, with all that entails for our neighbors in Europe, sub- Saharan Africa and the Gulf.”
Beyond the high-profile display of the arms at the Ashdod port, Israeli representatives abroad were stressing the following points:
• The smuggling attempt provides additional proof of Israel’s need to examine all goods entering the Gaza Strip.
• Israel acted in self defense because the smuggling of arms into Gaza poses a direct and imminent threat to the safety of Israelis, who continue to find themselves under rocket and mortar fire originating from the Strip.
• Iran is trying to arm Hamas, and Gaza has become part of the Iranian-Syria-Hamas axis.
Israel is also stressing that the smuggling was in clear violation of various UN Security Council resolutions and international maritime regulations.
According to the Foreign Ministry, transferring weaponry to terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip is a blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860 (2009), which calls upon member states to intensify efforts to “prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition” to the Gaza Strip. Likewise, it also violates UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), which calls upon states to refrain from providing any form of support to terrorist organizations and to eliminate the supply of weapons to such groups.
Similarly, since nothing in the Victoria’s freight manifest revealed the true nature of the content of the ship’s containers, it is in violation of the relevant provisions of the International Maritime Organization’s Conventions and professional standards, including the Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.”
Ayalon said Israel was “examining and documenting” the evidence taken from the Victoria and would report the findings to the UN Sanctions Committee, asking it to take firm action against those involved in violating the UN Security Council resolutions.