Iran Must Be Held Accountable

When Israel intercepted the Karine-A ship in January 2002, it succeeded in tearing the mask off Yasser Arafat, who had convinced much of the world that he was a diplomat seeking a peaceful resolution to the so-called Palestinian problem. The 50 tons of weaponry on the ship, which Arafat had ordered from Iran for use against men, women and children in Israel, was enough to convince then-U.S. President George W. Bush to banish the terror chief from the White House and put the Palestinians on notice that they’d better find themselves a new leader.

The government of Israel had hoped against hope that last week’s interception of the Klos-C weapons ship, with powerful, long-range missiles that could reach Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv and the suburbs of Haifa with deadly force, would similarly succeed in exposing the new “moderate” regime in Iran for what it is: a ruthless enemy that is determined to “wipe Israel off the map,” R”l, whether through nuclear weapons or other means.

Unfortunately, the message isn’t being heard, not for want of convincing evidence but for lack of interest. First, the world is distracted by the crisis in Ukraine and the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines passenger plane. Second, and more importantly, it wants to be taken in by the Iranian smile campaign; it wants to believe that President Hassan Rouhani is a pragmatist who has the authority and genuine desire to reach an agreement on his country’s nuclear weapons project. It will believe anything that makes it unnecessary to resort to military action.

The truth is that the West has leverage over Iran, which is desperate to end its diplomatic and economic isolation and gain access to world markets. But that leverage is frittered away when leaders such as European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visit Tehran over the weekend and ignore Iran’s role in the smuggling of powerful weapons to terrorists in Gaza and/or Sinai.

Had she held Rouhani and company accountable, instead of posing for the cameras with broad smiles even as Israel was unloading these weapons in Eilat, she would have sent a message that the West is no one’s fool and will insist on an ironclad agreement that keeps nuclear weapons out of the hands of the world’s No. 1 supporter of terror.

Washington, on the other hand, came out firmly in acknowledging Iran’s role in the weapons shipment and condemning it. “We were very clear about our views on the ship that was interdicted and the fact that we condemn in the strongest terms Iran’s efforts to supply terrorist organizations operating in the region with weaponry,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, adding that it “posed a direct threat to the security of Israel.”

Not only was Washington updated throughout the Israeli interception, it actively participated by providing key intelligence.

At the same time, the administration is not prepared to adopt the Netanyahu government’s position that the attempt to
smuggle weapons should put an end to efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis diplomatically. Rather, it believes, as do  some in the Israeli intelligence community, that there are at least two camps in Iran, and that Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, oppose the “conservatives” who were behind the smuggling attempt.
Irrespective of how the rest of the world views the interception of such powerful weapons, we, as believing Jews, must understand what was at stake and appreciate how grateful we must be for the success of the mission, b’siyatta diShmaya.

The 40 M-302 missiles aboard the ship were potential game-changers. With a range of 100 miles (160 km), they would have put up to five million Israelis in imminent danger.

It isn’t clear whether these missiles, in addition to 181 mortar rounds and some 400,000 rifle cartridges, were headed toward Gaza — either for Islamic Jihad or Hamas — or to the Sinai peninsula. Either way, their presence would have enabled terrorists to operate more freely in the knowledge that Israel would hesitate to respond if faced with the possibility of jeopardizing five million of its citizens.

All the residents of Israel would have been more vulnerable not only to increased terror and missile firings, but to Iranian nuclear attacks. That’s because the government would have had to think twice before sending planes to destroy nuclear installations if Iran had “satellites” in Gaza and Lebanon (Hizbullah) equipped with long-range missiles that could cover the entire country.

On the eve of Purim, we are once again witness to our enemies who have openly declared their intention to “destroy, to slay and to exterminate all the Jews, from young to old, children and women …” and who are working tirelessly to acquire the means to do so.

The message of the Megillah is that Hashem orchestrates what appear to be an insignificant string of events that play out in a way that delivers us from the evil designs of our enemies. May He do so in our day, as well.