KEY POINTS

  • The analysis said Israel had "no answer" on repeated sea attacks.
  • The IDF has zero naval capabilities outside of its main operating areas.
  • IDF's past retaliatory actions will not be enough, the report added

The drone attack on an oil tanker with Israeli connections off the coast of Oman last Thursday has stoked maritime tensions between Israel and Iran, which was alleged to have orchestrated the attack. 

The attack on the Mercer Street tanker, which claimed the lives of a British and a Romanian crew member, has, for now, triggered a verbal war between the two arch enemies. While Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called out Iran for "thuggish behavior," Iran vehemently denied any role in the attacks, saying Israel should stop leveling "false allegations." 

However, the continuing maritime clashes and repeated attacks on Israeli ships prove that Israel Defence Force's (IDF) naval capabilities had not done much to intimidate Iran from choosing sea attacks, says an article in The Jerusalem Post.

"Iran is right that it has an advantage in pursuing its shadow war with Israel at sea. But how is this true if the Israel Navy keeps improving?" the analysis put forward a rhetorical question.

According to the writer, Israel Navy's acquisition of  INS Magen, the most advanced Sa’ar 6 corvette missile ship, is aimed at providing the IDF a "greater range in defending Israel’s territorial waters, especially its sea-based natural gas installations."

"Israel’s new navy is also far more connected to other IDF units than in the past, as it is able to track and relay real-time intelligence to support the IAF and other units. One would think that all of these new IDF naval capabilities would intimidate the Islamic Republic from choosing the sea specifically to target Israel. But all of this misses the point," Jerusalem Post wrote. 

The article says that though the IDF and its capabilities have vastly improved over the years, it has "close to zero naval capabilities outside of its main operating areas near the Israeli, Gazan and Lebanese coastlines in areas where Iran is dominant or where it can easily send fast boats. It is susceptible to Iranian drones, sea mines, rockets and other attacks on Israel-connected civilian shipping."

According to the Jerusalem Post, though Tehran can also hit Israeli embassies and other targets overseas "like it did through Hezbollah in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012 and attempted to do not long ago in India," these carry diplomatic consequences. 

But, for sea attacks, the diplomatic fallout will be signifcantly reduced, because of "the circumstances framed as unclear by everyone besides Israel." 

"In the meantime, Iran has carried out many attacks against Israel-connected ships over the last couple of years. Jerusalem has no answer, and it does not appear to be engaged in finding a clear one," the article adds.

The only answer to such attacks has been "retaliation against Iranian shipping or other assets to achieve deterrence." 

"But Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi wants to demonstrate how tough he is, so past actions by the IDF will not be enough. If Israel wants to avoid more attacks on its ships at sea, it will need a new doctrine for the navy to extend its protective footprint or a new level of retaliation to get Raisi to back off," says The Jerusalem Post. 

Israel and Iran had frequently attacked each other's vessels in the international waters, the recent one being a missile attack on a cargo ship, previously owned by an Israeli company, in the Indian Ocean.

Israel-operated cargo ship the MV Helios Ray was hit by explosions at sea on February 25 which blast in the Gulf of Oman left two holes in its side File picture of Israel-operated cargo ship the MV Helios Ray that was hit by explosions at sea on February 25. Photo: AFP / Giuseppe CACACE