Israel disrupted its neighbors' afternoon nap on Wednesday. In fact, the nuisance had the world wake up from its siesta. That West, that sleeping beauty that has all but passed out, had been dreaming about Iran being gradually transformed into a moderate nation when those rude Israeli commandos raided a Panamanian-flagged merchant vessel some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away from home, seizing M-302 missiles that had been dispatched from Syria to the Gaza Strip, by way of Iran.
This perception of Israel has its origins in 1972, when the elite special forces unit Sayeret Matkal freed the passengers aboard a hijacked Sabena plane. It was reinforced in the wake of the daring Israeli mission in Entebbe, Uganda in 1976, when the Israel Defense Forces rescued some 100 Israeli hostages whose plane had been taken over by Palestinian terrorists and diverted to Africa, and in 1988, when Khalil al-Wazir, the second in command in the Palestine Liberation Organization, was assassinated by Israeli commandos in his Tunis home. Later, in 2002, Israel's Flotilla 13 naval commando unit seized Karine A in the high waters of the Red Sea before its Iranian-dispatched weapons could reach the Gaza Strip. The most recent raid was a culmination of a lengthy undertaking that required a great deal of preparation.
By and large, Israelis view such operations as a badge of honor, although there a few who are saddened whenever the IDF's popularity soars (Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy recently criticized Channel 2's Ilana Dayan for speaking with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about the sacrifice her colleagues' children have to make when they serve in the military).
The seizure of Klos C was not about Israeli pride. It was designed to make sure Hamas did not lay its hands on a lethal weapons system whose explosive payload of 150 kilograms (330 pounds) can target major population centers in Israel. The operation has other aspects, too. It helps the government as it tries to have the world see Iran for the terrorist epicenter it really is and undo the effect of its smiling leaders. The images of Israeli special forces on that ship help drive home this message in European and American households; they offer a counter-narrative that stands in stark contrast to what the Iran-pleasers in the West are doing.
The media has already mused whether the government lifted the news embargo on the raid because it helped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's U.S. visit. If Netanyahu were such top-notch Hollywood director, he would have made sure the raid coincided with his summit with U.S. President Barack Obama several days ago, or at the very least, with his speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Yes, the news of the operation was made public before the troops were safely back home. Was the decision motivated by a desire to improve the coverage of Netanyahu's trip? If I were speaking on behalf of the government, I would have this answer: Yes! Many Israelis have lamented that Israel's public diplomacy efforts have lacked a proactive posture that prepares public opinion rather than reacts to it. Remember that botched operation to divert the Gaza-bound Turkish-led flotilla in 2010? This time around, public diplomacy took a front-row seat.
The world may be tuned out, but Israel must nevertheless scream and shout. The attempted shipment of arms through the Klos C was in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions (why has the Israeli Foreign Ministry yet to lodge a complaint with the U.N.?). The intercepted delivery shows that Tehran is engaging in illicit activity behind Egypt's back, forging new ties with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Eventually people will realize that for the ayatollah regime, lying is just part of its daily life, part of a routine.
When the IDF intercepted the Karine A, then-Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat swore he had nothing to do with the shipment. Israel then made sure implicating information was shared with then-U.S. President George W. Bush. For Bush, this turned the Palestinian leader into a liar, an image he could not shed for the rest of his life.
This is Karine A all over again, and this time the villain is Iran. Tehran said it had nothing to do with it, but the Israeli intelligence, which has won praise all over, would be well-served if it provided a smoking gun proving that the ayatollahs have lied, again. This is just part of the game.