Netanyahu tells West ‘Drop your illusions about Iran’

Daily News Article   —   Posted on March 12, 2014

image1348(Steve Weizman, Agence France-Presse) Eilat, ISRAEL — Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the world of “hypocrisy” over Iran on Monday as he unveiled a shipment of arms allegedly dispatched to Gaza by Tehran.  [According to intelligence officers in Israel, shipping documentation connects the confiscated stockpile to Iran.]

Standing in front of a vast display of weapons seized last week from a vessel in the Red Sea, Netanyahu launched a blistering attack on the West over its apparent disregard for Iran’s alleged attempts to supply longer-range rockets to Palestinian militants.

In a highly-publicized speech from Eilat port, where the weapons had been unloaded, Netanyahu said he had only heard a handful of “softly-worded condemnations of Iran” over its “murderous delivery” which came to light just days before EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton made a landmark visit to Tehran.

“We have been witness to the smiles and the handshakes between representatives of the West and the heads of the Iranian regime in Tehran, even as these missiles were being unloaded here in Eilat,” he said.

There were some in the international community who did not want Israel to expose “the truth behind the false smiles of Iran,” he said, dismissing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has spearheaded Iran’s opening to the West, as nothing more than “a PR man.”

“They want to continue perpetuating the illusion that Iran has changed direction. The facts that we are showing here, on this platform show the complete opposite,” he said.

iran-weaponsAhead of the speech, hordes of journalists and foreign military attaches were shown the weapons found on board the Panamanian-flagged Klos-C, including 40 longer-range M-302 rockets, 181 mortar rounds and approximately 400,000 rifle cartridges.

Also on display were sacks of cement under which the weapons had been hidden. On the sacks, written in English, were the names “Fars and Khozestan Cement Co” and “Hormozgan Cement Company” – both names of Iranian firms.

M-302 rockets have a range of 100 miles, and if fired from Gaza could easily reach Tel Aviv, which lies just 37 miles to the north.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said Gaza militants have around 8,000 rockets, including 200 M75s, named for their 47 mile (75 km) range.

MapIsraelThe Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza unveiled a statue of the M75 Monday to showcase its ability to strike deep within Israel. M75 rockets fired during the last conflict with Israel in November 2012 struck near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Analysts have said the discovery of the ship was unlikely to change the West’s limited rapprochement [establishment of friendlier relations] with Iran or its willingness to negotiate over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.

Netanyahu compared the international community’s silence on the Iranian ship with its haste to condemn Israel over its construction of settlements on land seized during the 1967 Six Day War.  “If we build a balcony in a neighborhood of Jerusalem, we hear a chorus of vociferous condemnation of the state of Israel from the international community,” he said.

Israel has said it has “solid and incriminating evidence” that Iran planned and executed the weapons shipment, but so far it has not made such evidence public.  “Our intelligence services exposed the ship’s wayward route and Iran’s efforts to disguise it. They exposed the ship’s deadly cargo and its intended destination,” he said, noting that US intelligence services had “verified all these facts.”

[In addition to the display of confiscated weapons, a bill of lading showing that the cargo on the Klos C was shipped from Bandar Abbas in Iran to Umm Qasr in Iraq was also shown. The Prime Minister’s Office said this document was clear evidence that the containers of ammunition and weapons were loaded in Iran. A forged manifest was also displayed.]

Iran has flatly denied any involvement with the shipment, which Israel believes was destined for the radical Islamic Jihad, which operates out of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

[Netanyahu said that the world’s ignoring Iran’s involvement in the deadly shipment “is more evidence of the era of hypocrisy in which we live.” This hypocrisy is not only morally wrong, he said, but dangerous. Just as Iran camouflaged the arms on this ship, he said, they have also hidden their military nuclear program.

“This time there were longrange missiles in these containers,” Netanyahu said. “In the containers in the future, Iran can arm nuclear suitcases that it can send to every port in the world. The world must wake up from its illusions before it is too late and prevent Iran from getting the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons.”]

World powers are currently engaged in talks with Iran to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Tehran has long insisted its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.  [Their nuclear weapons program was a secret until discovered in 2002.  No Western powers believe their claims that the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.] Israel, which believes Iran is still trying to build a nuclear weapons capability, has repeatedly insisted that the only thing Tehran has changed is its tactics. 

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza have denied any knowledge of the ship.

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