The threat to send Israeli commandos to extract Israeli embassy officials from the besieged embassy in Cairo in September 2011 is what eventually compelled then Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi to send in crack Egyptian forces to rescue the men, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
Netanyahu, speaking at a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry commemorating Israeli diplomats killed abroad, recalled the siege of the embassy when six security officials were holed up behind a metal door in a safe room in the building, while an angry mob rampaged through the premises.
“A mob came to slaughter our people, and we used all the tools at our disposal that night, including the threat of rescue operation by the IDF, which finally tipped the balance and led the Egyptian forces then under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, together with careful coordination from here — that ultimately led to the successful conclusion of this event,” he said.
This is believed to be the first time Israel acknowledged that it threatened to send in Israeli forces to extract the men. Up until now the narrative was that the Egyptians acted thanks to the direct intervention of US President Barack Obama.
Indeed, Netanyahu after the men were extracted from the building offered a special thank you on television to Obama who “said he would do everything he could” to extricate the six security guards, “and did.”
“He used all the means and influence of the US, which are significant, and I think we owe him a special thank you. This testifies to the strong alliance between Israel and the US. This alliance is critical, especially during these days of great storms buffeting the Middle East,” the prime minister said at the time.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, Netanyahu said that he spoke by phone during the incident with the security guard and said, “Yoni, the State of Israel will get you out of there.”
Israel, however, has not been able to protect all of its diplomats over the years, and 16 Israeli foreign service officers have been killed abroad since the establishment of the state. Netanyahu said that Israel’s diplomats are subject to threats by those who want to harm Israel’s relation with the nations of the world.
“Our representative are there to deflect political and propaganda attacks, and precisely because of this they are liable to turn into targets for physical attacks,” he said.