What we can say for certain is that the weaponry on the Victoria originated in Iran, which has a relay station in Syria. This is the main axis that also supplies terrorist forces in Lebanon, Hizbullah, and Gaza.

 PM Netanyahu's remarks during visit to the western border fence


C-704 anti-ship missiles equipped with radars with a range of 35 kilometers found on the Victoria (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

"On my previous visit here three months ago, there was nothing here. We had a porous border with Sinai and it was completely broken through by a growing stream of illegal infiltrators who were going to Eilat, Arad and Tel Aviv. If we did not stop this stream, it would grow much stronger.

Therefore, for this reason and for a second reason, i.e. terrorist and criminal activity, which we have identified in time, we are gearing up to stop this activity. We had long debates about whether it was possible to stop it, if a fence would stop it, if people could pass through it because any fence can be cut. This was, more or less, the first or second lesson I learned after being drafted. But it is not precise. We are trying not only to stop this physically.

The work, major work, has started here. Very major work has been done here in the past three months. I commend all those who are involved. I came today to see and to tell you that I welcome the new target you have presented here, to finish the permanent by the summer of 2012. There will be no financing problem. We have a national interest in securing the borders of the State of Israel on land, in the air and, as you know, at sea. This is vital for our national security. Therefore, I am setting the next target – the summer of 2012 to finish the fence and I am giving you a challenge, you can finish earlier. The money will be there for this too.

Prime Minister Netanyahu answered journalists’ questions.

Question: "Mr. Prime Minister, could you say something about the ship that the IDF intercepted last night?"

PM Netanyahu: "Very early this morning, I approved the Navy’s interception of the Victoria. We had a solid basis that onboard the ship was weaponry destined for use against Israel. Considerable weaponry – which was destined for terrorist forces in the heart of Gaza – was found onboard the vessel. The operation was carried out at sea in accordance with all international rules and our right under international law to stop weapons smuggling directed against our citizens. My Military Secretary reported to me about the operation.

The ship is en route to Ashdod and will arrive in several hours. We will unpack the equipment and, of course, the weaponry originated in Iran, which is continuing to try and arm terrorist forces that operate against the State of Israel. It is our right and our duty to do our utmost to stop this supply effort. I gave instructions to this effect and thus the IDF acted in a superlative manner."

Question: "What does the fact that the ship belongs to Turkey say about Israeli-Turkish relations?"

PM Netanyahu: "I do not suggest rushing to conclusions. We are gathering all the data. What we can say for certain is that the weaponry originated in Iran, which has a relay station in Syria. This is the main axis that also supplies terrorist forces in Lebanon, Hizbullah, and terrorist forces in Gaza. We are updating all countries accordingly. We are also updating the world. Tomorrow, there will be a proper briefing after we unpack the ship."

Question: "You certainly heard on our way here and before, the country, citizens in the country stopped for five minutes as a sign of solidarity with the struggle of the Shalit family. In this context, do you have any update on the subject, some message for the Shalit family, which has lived near your house for some time?"

PM Netanyahu: "We are constantly active and are making various efforts to try and bring about the release of Gilad Shalit. Only a small portion of this reaches the public. The difficulty in achieving an agreement stems from the fact that Hamas insists on the release of hardcore murderers, over 100 hardcore murderers according to the security forces’ definition, into Judea and Samaria. How many of the recent severe terrorist attacks which we experienced in the past year, I am not talking about the recent, awful terrorist attack in Itamar, that terrible slaughter; it is still too early to determine about it – but it is not too late to determine about other murders, which were perpetrated, planned and encouraged by Hamas elements from within Israeli prisons. This is what they did from inside prison, when they are very restricted.

Releasing such a core of murderers into Judea and Samaria would allow them to perpetrate many more murders and attack Israeli citizens not only in Judea and Samaria but in Israeli cities as well, in Petah Tikva, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Afula, and everywhere. My responsibility is not only to return Gilad but it is also to protect all seven million citizens of Israel. In my assessment, Hamas’s condition is unacceptable to me, who am responsible for citizens’ lives. Therefore, this agreement of theirs, to what has been proposed by the German mediator, this agreement is being delayed.

But again, we have two goals here. One is to make unceasing efforts to bring Gilad back home. The second is to defend the lives of the citizens of this country. These two goals are before me always. This is my responsibility as Prime Minister."