Netanyahu has shown his willingness to use Iran’s fabled presence as a pretext for military action anywhere in the region, particularly when the true motives for military escalation would prove more difficult to justify.
On Wednesday, during a speech at a naval parade in Haifa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to deploy the Israeli military to Yemen if the country’s resistance movement blocks the Bab al-Mandab Strait on Yemen’s western coast. The strait, the geostrategic position of which was arguably the reason for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition war against Yemen in the first place, connects the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea and has the potential to be used as a “chokepoint” on global oil trade. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, an average of 4.8 million barrels of oil pass through the strait every day.
Israel’s concern comes a week after Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended oil shipments through the strait after Yemen resistance fighters attacked two Saudi vessels in the waterway. The Saudis have asserted that the vessel were oil tankers while Yemen’s government has claimed that they were Saudi warships. Some analysts warned at the time that the temporary suspension, and the associated rise in oil prices, could provoke an escalation of the conflict by spurring increased involvement from foreign powers seeking to assist the Saudi-led coalition in the three-year-long conflict.
Netanyahu — falsely claiming that the Houthi rebels, who comprise a major part of the Yemeni resistance movement Ansarullah, are working at Iran’s behest — stated that: “If Iran will try to block the straits of Bab al-Mandab, I am certain that it will find itself confronting an international coalition that will be determined to prevent this, and this coalition will also include all of Israel’s military branches.”
Netanyahu’s comments were echoed by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who, speaking at the same event, claimed to have “recently heard of threats to harm Israeli ships in the Red Sea,” though he gave no further details.