The last-ditch efforts of Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to form a coalition, culminating Wednesday night in the dispersal of the newly instated 21st Knesset, overshadowed crucial events that help to explain why the ruling Likud Party has been and should remain at the helm.
A committee headed by Netanyahu – who has been serving as defense minister since Avigdor Liberman resigned the post in November and spurred the election that he just caused to go down the drain – announced its decision to award the 2019 Israel Defense Prize to the Mossad agents who bravely broke into a warehouse in Tehran and retrieved thousands of documents related to Iran’s nuclear program.
The massive amount of material, proving beyond a doubt that Iran has been working to build nuclear weapons, was presented by Netanyahu to the Israeli public a year ago in April. In a televised appearance, Netanyahu walked back and forth between shelves full of folders and a wall covered in compact discs, to illustrate the extent of the find – the contents of which are thought to have contributed to US President Donald Trump’s final decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the “Iran nuclear deal.”
As in the past, the Israeli prime minister was ridiculed in this case for his tendency to use “props” to make his point. Guffaws can still be heard from the peanut gallery of Bibi-detractors over the primitive graphic of a bomb, with a red line drawn just below its detonator, which he held up during an address to the UN General Assembly in 2012.
Mockery may be the only method that Netanyahu’s rivals can come up with to distract and detract from the actual message that he has been conveying throughout his career. But the joke is on them.
Whatever the voting public feels about his penchant for melodramatic devices, it knows he’s right about the threats that Israel faces, and trusts him more than anyone else to stave off, if not eradicate, them.
No amount of Bibi-bating, however, was able to counteract the general sense in Israel that the Mossad guys who seized such a consequential trove from deep in enemy territory, and whisked it back to Israel without a snag, were heroic. Not since Operation Thunderbolt – the 1976 Entebbe raid during which Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, was killed rescuing hostages in Uganda – has the country experienced such a surge of national pride.
The Mossad maneuver was a reminder that the Jewish state still possesses the will, and often unparalleled ability, to pull off something so brazenly jaw-dropping.
Think about it. As the ayatollahs were repeating their mantra-vow to wipe the Jewish state off the map, a group of Israelis reached the Iranian capital, invaded a top-secret storage space and returned home with a roomful of files. It was an unimaginable feat, well deserving of the high honor being bestowed on those who executed it.
Due to the national security nature of the accomplishment, however, the identity of the award-winners must be kept under wraps. This is not unusual. Since 1958, when the annual Israel Defense Prize was first launched (and granted to Uzi Gal, creator of Israel’s trademark Uzi submachine gun), recipients’ names frequently have been withheld. Sometimes, though, the prize is not given to individuals or units.
Last year, for instance, it was granted to three security-related projects, including a sensor-based subterranean detection system that can locate Hamas terror tunnels extending from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel. Thanks to this advanced mechanism, the IDF detected and destroyed at least 10 attack tunnels between the fall of 2017 and the summer of 2018.
Which brings us to another important development upstaged by the political fray that is forcing Israelis to hold another round of parliamentary elections on September 17.
While the Knesset was voting to disband itself on Wednesday night, the IDF was busy neutralizing a huge Hezbollah terror tunnel extending from Lebanon into northern Israel. It was the sixth and last cross-border tunnel to be destroyed as part of Operation Northern Shield, which the IDF launched on December 4 and reportedly completed a month and a half later, on January 13.
The Hezbollah tunnels – like those of Hamas – were built for the easy transport of terrorists and weapons with which to kidnap and/or kill Israeli civilians and soldiers.
The tunnel in question – originating in the Lebanese village of Ramiyeh and ending up in a spot situated between the communities of Zar’it and Shtula – is approximately 263 feet deep, with 20 flights of stairs, and contains electrical and ventilation systems, enabling Hezbollah operatives to dig for long stretches of time.
The Ramiyeh tunnel and the five others already destroyed by the Israeli military were part of the Shi’ite terrorist organization’s “Conquering the Galilee” plan, identified by the IDF in 2012. This plan, hatched by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, involved the deployment of fighters from the group’s elite Radwan “unit,” which is more like a special-forces death squad.
Hezbollah was able to begin constructing its terror tunnels – in addition to amassing more than 50,000 fighters and 100,000 rockets and missiles – after the 2006 Second Lebanon War with Israel.
This blatant violation of UN Resolution 1701, which ended the war, was not exactly surprising. Iran and its terrorist proxies never have honored agreements, after all.
Notably, Israel’s prime minister at the time was Ehud Olmert, not Netanyahu. Two years after the war, as he was about to step down to combat the bribery charges that ultimately landed him in jail, Olmert actually defended the resolution, on the ridiculous grounds that it had led to “quiet” along Israel’s northern border. Apparently, from his perch in Jerusalem, Olmert was unable to hear the pounding and drilling going on along that border, or observe Hezbollah weapons convoys breezing by useless UNIFIL soldiers tasked with “monitoring” terrorist movements.
Since replacing Olmert in 2009, then, Netanyahu has had to greenlight airstrikes on these convoys. Oh, and on Iranian targets in Syria, as well.
While on the subject of the Islamic Republic, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday tweeted a characteristic attack on the Trump administration, accusing it of “economic terrorism [that] is hurting the Iranian people and causing tension in the region.”
He began his assault with a lie, of course, claiming that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “long ago said we’re not seeking nuclear weapons – by issuing a fatwa [religious Islamic decree] banning them.”
The story of this alleged fatwa was created by Iranian honchos for consumption by Western patsies as far back as 2005, and was reiterated prior to every summit held with and about Tehran. Former US president Barack Obama not only lapped it up, but spread it repeatedly to justify his appeasement of and capitulation to the mullah-led regime.
In 2015, mere months before reaching the deal with the devil, Obama declared: “Since Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, this framework gives Iran the opportunity to verify that its program is, in fact, peaceful.”
Yet, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) had written six exhaustive reports – one of which was released days before Obama made that statement – proving that such a fatwa never existed.
Luckily, Trump is not Obama. He believes what he sees, not the lying eyes of wishful thinkers and evildoers. And what he is witnessing are Iranian warships in the Arabian Gulf threatening American interests.
Trump might not have needed a push from Netanyahu to grasp the gravity of a nuclear Iran, especially one with long-range ballistic missiles at the ready. But he appreciates the existence of a steadfast ally on the front lines, fending off Iran’s proxies on a daily basis.
Netanyahu’s adversaries at home and abroad are gleefully trying to portray Israel’s current political crisis as a failure of his leadership – or an attempt on his part to escape possible indictment – rather than what it is: an electoral system sorely in need of reform.
Indeed, Netanyahu’s critics refuse to acknowledge the real reason that he has been prime minister for the past decade. No other party chair on the scene at the moment inspires confidence that, under his or her watch, the country would be secure enough externally to withstand its internal strife.