ניסיון הצנזורה נכשל: בני גנץ ביקר השבוע בסינגפור. למה הטיל צא”פ על הביקור? בשנת 2012, שר הביטחון דאז אהוד ברק ביקר בסינגפור.חוליית חיזבאללה זממה להתנקש בחייו במהלך שהותו. המוסד חשף את המזימה, והזוממים נעצרו. סביר להניח שהסינגפורים רצו להימנע מחזרה על התקרית הזו.
Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz returned from a secret trip today. Secret, because the military censor doesn’t want Israelis to know where he went. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Nahum Barnea, veteran security reporter for Yediot, broke censorship, saying Gantz was in Singapore peddling Israeli weapons to the city-state’s military echelon:
Gantz was in Singapore on Tuesday. The rumors spoke of a secret security mission. But the official summary was far more modest: Singapore was the second nation which ever bought Israeli weapons (after the US). Every prior defense minister (except Bennett) has made sure to conduct such a visit.
But why would the trip be kept secret? Singapore is not a Muslim country and it has had relations with Israel for decades. When Netanyahu was prime minister, he traveled there and there was nothing secret about it. Other than sheer pettiness, what would motivate the censor to keep a lid on this?
Tal Schneider reports that Singapore itself requested secrecy. It seeks to conceal from its citizens the sources of the weapons it buys from the world’s arms makers. A more persuasive reason might be this: in 2012, then-defense minister, Ehud Barak visited Singapore. His visit was public knowledge. A Hezbollah cell plotted to assassinate him during his stay. They even obtained his schedule. The Mossad uncovered the plot, informed the country’s intelligence agency and the plotters were arrested. It seems likely the Singaporeans may have wanted to avoid a repeat of this incident. They assessed that Iranian intelligence would welcome an opportunity to take a shot at Gantz if given the chance. Secrecy was deemed the better part of valor.
Aside from this, Israel’s reputation on the world stage took a huge hit after its attack on Gaza last May. Singapore is surrounded by Muslim states (Malaysia, Indonesia) and itself is 15% Muslim. There was no upside for Singapore’s leaders to be publicly welcoming a former IDF chief of staff with blood on his hands, and who may be the subject of an ICC war crimes investigation.
IDF’s Media Feint
Before Barnea published his account. social media accounts of Israeli journalists buzzed with unofficial speculation about Waldo’s whereabouts. One of the more likely scenarios had him in Azerbaijan. Though Israel has had relations with Azerbaijan since 1992, it is a Muslim country surrounded by other Muslim states like Iran and Turkey. For that reason, much of the commerce between the two states is done covertly. The Azeri strongman leader, Aliyev, has spent billions filling his arsenal with Israeli armaments (notably drones) to fight his repeated wars with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
It’s a badly-kept secret that Israel has taken over Azeri airfields near the border with Iran and equipped them with all the equipment and infrastructure needed to mount an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. This includes Israel’s latest purchase, American F-35 warplanes which have touched down at the base. These facilities are a key element of Israel’s strategic plan because it vastly reduces the flying time for Israeli warplanes from Israel to Iran. The airfields could also serve as refueling stops for Israeli planes en route to Iran or returning from there to home bases inside Israel. Israel has established secret surveillance facilities in (in the guise of a “smart city”) Azerbaijan aimed at scooping up Iranian intelligence and communications.
Azerbaijan has played a delicate game with its neighbors, especially Iran. There is a large Azeri minority inside Iran. And the two countries share a long history. It’s well known that Iran has planted its own spies inside the country. Israel has done so as well, in order to keep an eye on Iran’s spies.
Azerbaijan recently conducted war maneuvers with Pakistan and Turkey near the Iranian border. The military exercises alarmed Iran since it had not received prior notice. In addition, there have been clashes between Iran and Azerbaijan over Iranian commerce with Armenia, with trucks blocked from crossing into Azeri territory on their way.
The most important reason for a Gantz visit would have been Israel’s escalating war hysteria against Iran. This includes the announcement of a special $1.5-billion budgetary item funding preparations for an Israeli attack. Also, this week’s cyber-attack on Iran’s gasoline supply network and recent attacks on its railway and ports offer further examples of Israel heating up the hawkish rhetoric. For some reason, Israel wants Iran to believe it is prepared to go to war to stop its nuclear program. Whether it really will do so is anyone’s guess. But clearly, Gantz’s trip (if this was his secret destination) would have involved how Israel planned to use Azeri territory as part of its plan of attack.
But the truth was much more prosaic. Gantz wasn’t planning a war against Iran. He was paying his respects to a well-heeled long-time weapons customer. An Israeli journalist who was fed the false Azerbaijan angle accused the IDF of spreading false rumors; just as it did during last May’s Gaza war when it tried and failed to tempt Hamas militants to flood their tunnels so that Israel would test its new bunker buster bombs courtesy of Uncle Sam. It did so by announcing via the media that it planned a massive ground assault. Reporters dutifully reported it. But Hamas knew better than to trust Israeli media. They weren’t fooled. And the bombs fell on tunnels which were virtually empty.