By seizing the Victoria, Israel not only dealt a blow to Hamas machinations but foremost to those of Hamas’s Iranian patron.
When we hear of the interception by our navy of a weapons-ferrying vessel on the high seas, we get only a minimal glimpse of the end-product of a super-intricate caper. We can only vaguely imagine the complexity of a worldwide endeavor involving most of Israel’s intelligence agencies and involving information sources and contacts in many disparate locations.
The upshot was that when the IDF naval commandos boarded the German-owned, French-operated, Romanian- captained and Liberian-chartered cargo ship Victoria Tuesday, they knew precisely where to find the Chinese-made rockets concealed behind sacks of cotton and lentils within the 39 Iranian containers loaded in Syria, before the ship deceptively sailed north to Turkey, only to later swing back southward to Egypt.
Sounds convoluted? It was.
Our appreciation for a job well done only increases when we begin to fathom what it was that the Iranians tried to deliver to their Gazan proxies. While much of world opinion laments a supposed humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, the Strip’s Hamas overlords never lose an opportunity to demonstrate where their concerns really lie. They are certainly not preoccupied with the welfare of their population.
The Victoria was expected to transport to them “tiebreaker” land-to-sea (also sea-to-sea) rocketry that would have prevented the Israel Navy from monitoring the maritime traffic around Gaza. That would in turn have facilitated unrestricted imports into Hamastan of all manner of game-changing weaponry and turned Gaza into an even more potent Iranian outpost, situated, in military terms, only a hop, skip and a jump from Tel Aviv.
By seizing the Victoria, Israel not only dealt a blow to Hamas machinations but foremost to those of Hamas’s Iranian patron. The Victoria’s cargo wouldn’t merely have added quantitatively to Hamas’s already colossal arsenal; it would have strategically upgraded its quality.
With a 35-kilometer range, the Chinese designed C-704 could theoretically have hit any boat within that radius from Gaza, as well as hit naval facilities on Israeli shores, to say nothing of strategic sites like the Ashkelon power plant, fuel depots, oil and gas facilities and much more. It could have truly triggered a nightmare scenario.
So far, the world media has shown only scant interest in the story. The likely pretext for the lack of interest is Japan’s overshadowing radioactive mega-scare.
Yet in November 2009 the interception of the Francop, with a haul of 320 tons of military hardware earmarked for Hezbollah (in brazen violation of UN Resolution 1701), also made almost no waves internationally. No looming nuclear calamity diverted the world’s attention at that time. Although Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke of the Francop’s cargo as constituting “components of a war crime,” much of the negligible resonance generated in some broadcasts actually dealt with accusations about “Israeli piracy.”
THE IMPLICATIONS are grave. Now, as then, there appears nearly no readiness to hear Israel out. Israeli grievances are essentially ignored. Aggressive anti-Israel schemes – of which the Victoria is only the most recent example – aren’t registered, much less internalized, at a time when the war against Israel has increasingly switched to the propaganda arena, where vilification and libel are the preferred weapons of choice. Iran’s protégés continually provoke Israel, yet are still allowed to masquerade as victims.
The arsenals that Tehran-sponsored terror groups import and hoard are crucially important. They demonstrate that Israel isn’t facing local militias but Iranian stand-ins. These ostensible underdogs possess deadly missiles and artillery, capable of upsetting the precarious balance in our vicinity, undercutting our defenses and ultimately enabling attacks on our civilian population centers.
It is precisely to thwart these fundamentally strategic dangers, as distinct from tactical annoyances, that Israel has maintained its sea blockade against Gaza. This isn’t arbitrary wickedness but an indispensable element of Israel’s self-defense. Were Israel misguidedly to forfeit its controls on traffic into Gaza, gunrunning ships like the intercepted Victoria might then regularly unload lethal arsenals in broad daylight.
We Israelis, as well as any statesmen and/or opinion molders overseas who purport to evince a modicum of objectivity, need to remember that even a single Victoria could bring in enough firepower to critically alter the odds against an already embattled Israel.
Most worrying in that context was IDF Spokesman Avi Benayahu’s comment on Tuesday that, for every Victoria thwarted, he simply couldn’t say how many had evaded Israeli interception.