|Benjamin Netanyahu is congratulated by former Israeli President
Zalman Shazar during a ceremony honoring the elite commandos who
rescued the hostages from the Sabena Flight 571.
On May 8th 1972 -forty years ago today- the Israeli government faced a volatile hostage situation at Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion) outside Tel Aviv-
Belgian-flagged Sabena flight 571 had departed smoothly from Vienna, yet twenty minutes after takeoff two male and two female Black September terrorists (of ’72 Munich Olympics massacre fame) had hijacked the plane. Fortunately their attempts to penetrate the pilot’s cabin were repulsed, and a brilliantly clever pilot named Reginald Levy managed to occupy and soothe the terrorists with diversionary chat over the craft’s loudspeaker system until landing safely in Israel.
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan had already received the pilot’s distress signals, but while acting out ‘negotiations’ with Black September the wily Dayan was actually planning a military solution dubbed Operation Isotope.
Once on the tarmac, Black September demands that 315 Palestinian prisoners then in Israeli jails be released were backed-up by samples of their explosives being walked-out by Captain Levy so negotiators could see that threats to blow-up the plane were indeed genuine. Passengers by all accounts were freaking-out by this point.
|The ‘technicians’ board Sabena 571|
But it didn’t take long for a team of 16 elite Sayeret Matkal commandos to approach the plane disguised as ground-crew in white coveralls. They convinced the Palestinians that the plane was in dire need of maintenance, boarded (above), and within a span of ten minutes had killed the two male terrorists while arresting the women.
Participating in the raid were not one but two future Israeli Prime Ministers, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu. Unlike the United States today, these are the caliber of men that Israelis view as leadership material.
Today of course PM Netanyahu faces a far larger threat, and indeed an existential one… the possibility of 7th-Century barbarians in Tehran going nuclear. But now that you know what he’s made of, what’s the chance of that ever happening on Bibi’s watch, ya think?
Since he’s already schooled recalcitrant ‘ally’ Obama repeatedly -and has got him on the electoral ropes now– Netanyahu today has made the necessary domestic moves by cancelling recently planned September elections and pivoting to form a government of national unity with center-left Kadima. Clearly the Israeli PM made a deal that will enable -not restrain- his ability to call for an all-out attack on Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas… and all while the Syrian military is preoccupied with clinging to power in Demascus:
How do you say ‘duck and cover’ in Persian, anyway?