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Defense minister: Submarines crucial for Israel’s security

In Gallant's speech at a military memorial service, he enumerated many threats that Israel faces today

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at a memorial for the 69 crew members of the Dakar submarine who died when it sank in 1968, at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2023. (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)

Israel’s submarines guarantee its security, the Israeli defense minister said at a Sunday memorial service for the crew of the Dakar submarine, which sank in 1968 with 69 personnel on board.

“Submarine crews today are continuing the same strategic mission of the Dakar crew. Much of the activity of the Shayetet 7 submarine units is kept classified from Israel’s citizens,” said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the Mount Herzl memorial ceremony. 

While it is still unclear why the Dakar submarine sank, despite the recovery in 1999 of some of its remains 3,000 meters underwater between Crete and Cyprus, the submarine’s sinking was “a national disaster,” Gallant said.

“There are disasters which are engraved in the foundational walls of a nation. Incidents that transform into having eternal meaning in the painful side of a society’s story, our story. The journey which was never completed, the journey of the Dakar, was a national disaster of that level,” Gallant said. 

In his speech, the defense minister enumerated the many threats that the Jewish state faces today.

“We face a long list of threats – with the Iranian threat being at the forefront – which challenge us both in areas nearby and areas far off. The submarines are insurance for the State of Israel’s security, and they have a vital hand in confronting the threats surrounding us,” he said.

He stressed that the submarines perform a considerable amount of work away from the public eye.

“The submarines act in unknown locations … playing critical joint operational roles” with various arms of the Israel Defense Forces, the defense minister said. They have done so for many years. 

Gallant has close family and professional ties to the naval theater. The defense minister’s mother Fruma, a Holocaust survivor, was a child on the famous SS Exodus that carried Jewish refugees from Europe to Israel in 1947. Gallant also marked his military career as a naval commando in the elite naval unit, Shayetet 13. 

IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram also spoke at the Mount Herzl ceremony, stating that the threat from Iran continues to grow. 

“The conflict with Iran is expanding into every arena. … We are determined and persist with the same spirit which led the Dakar crew. The IDF Navy’s dominance has grown in recent years and there are many complex operations day after day,” Baram said. 

Baram added that IDF soldiers have “stopped Hezbollah attacks and Gaza attacks and continue to stop the growing power of Iranian proxies.”

Baram emphasized the role of the Israeli Navy as guaranteeing “the stability of the Israeli economy through maintaining the freedom of the seas and access to seaports.” 

Baram also stressed that when “deterrence” is discussed, it should be remembered that real “people are behind these phrases” and that submarine crews have no choice but to “spend long weeks away from land, exposed to both physical and emotional dangers.” 

The deputy chief noted that Israel’s submarine crews are sometimes strengthened by remembering the fearlessness of the Dakar crew.

IDF Navy Chief Maj.-Gen. David Sa’ar Salama said at the memorial that the IDF’s submariners have “had many successes in the ‘war between wars’ in taking away areas of activity [a reference to weapons smuggling] from IDF enemies and improving the navy’s overall readiness for any future conflict.”

Israel’s ongoing operations against Iranian military activity in Syria and elsewhere, such as weapons smuggling, is often referred to as the “war between wars.”

The Israeli Navy has traditionally been the smallest of the branches that make up the Israel Defense Forces. However, in recent years, the state upgraded its navy to meet growing challenges posed by Iran and Hezbollah. For instance, the navy is tasked with protecting Israel’s strategically important gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea from Hezbollah attacks. 

In addition, Israel reportedly has submarines capable of firing nuclear missiles, giving the Jewish state what is known as a “second strike” capability – and immense deterrence – against enemies seeking to launch a surprise attack against Israeli land targets. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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