In the event of a regional crisis with Iran, Israel’s ports are ready to “weather the storm” and maintain its model of stability in the Middle East.
During a recent interview with The Algemeiner, Yechiel Leiter, the Chairman of Israel’s Port Authority, said that his country is increasingly becoming an attractive place for international shipping companies to invest money in infrastructure, as political winds shift in the Middle East. He added that while Israeli ports would likely be targeted in any conflict with Iran, he fully expects Israel to be ready to deal with the threat.
“Some of the missiles will fall in the proximity of the Haifa port,” Leiter said. “Would it necessarily be targeted as a primary target? Nobody can say, but it’s highly likely they’ll aim in our area.”
Leiter served as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff during Netanyahu’s tenure as the country’s finance minister.
“We don’t maintain anti-missile batteries at the Haifa Port, however Israel has expanded its capability in that area in the form of the Iron Dome and I have to assume they’ll be there because of the strategic importance that the ports bear.”
Last May, Jerusalem became the first non-port city to host a conference of the International Association of Ports and Harbors, one of the signs Leiter pointed to as proof that Israel is becoming a darling of the commercial shipping industry in the Middle East.
“Israel offers political and economic stability and that’s big in the industry,” Leiter said. “People are very concerned about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the region as a whole, including Syria.”
Israel must offer and build a “hub port”, according to Leiter, which will allow the country to bypass logistical issues such as the closures of regional waterways that arise from geo-political conflicts.
“If goods would be de-freighted in Port Said (Egypt), you can run into different strategic problems there. We don’t want goods sitting in Port Said for two months until we’re able to get them out with our own ships.”
Asked what sort of scenario he sees Israeli port cities, which include Haifa, Ashdod, and Eilat, dealing with in terms of rocket and missile fire in response to a conflict with Iran, Leiter said that due to the scale of the scenario in question, it’s “hard to say”.
“Nobody really knows. If it’s a repeat performance, you can assume, some of the old tricks will be played out but this is something we’ve never experienced, so its hard to say. When you look at it from an overall perspective though, the industry is high on Israel right now because of the stability that it offers. From time to time there can be a problem but overall it’s a mainstay of stability. We’ll weather that storm if we have to”.