An Israeli submarine sailed the Suez Canal to the Red Sea as part of a naval drill last month, defense sources said on Friday, as an Israeli minister warned against the expanding population of Arab Israelis that do not "love" Israel.
A defense source said the Israeli navy held an exercise off Eilat last month and that one of Israel’s Dolphin-class submarines took part, having travelled to the Red Sea port though Suez, in the unusual maneuver that was described as a show of strategic reach in the face of Iran.
"This was definitely a departure from policy," said the source, who declined to give further details on the drill or say whether the Dolphin had undergone Egyptian inspections in the canal, through which the submarine sailed unsubmerged.
It was unclear when last month the vessel left the Mediterranean. One source said the voyage was planned for months and so was not related to unrest after the June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Another Israeli defense source with extensive naval experience said the drill "showed that we can far more easily access the Indian Ocean, and the Gulf, than before."
But the source added: "If indeed our subs are capable of doing to Iran what they are believed to be capable of doing, then surely this is a capability that can be put into action from the Mediterranean?"
Egyptian officials at Suez said they would neither confirm nor deny reports regarding military movements. One official said that if there was such a passage by Israelis in the canal, it would not be problematic as Egypt and Israel are not at war.
A military spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the voyage, first reported on Friday by the Jerusalem Post.
Israel Ready to Retaliate
Israel long kept its three Dolphin-class submarines, which are widely assumed to carry nuclear missiles, away from Suez so as not to expose them to the gaze of Egyptian harbormasters.
Sailing to the Gulf without using Suez would oblige the diesel-fueled Israeli submarines, normally based in the Mediterranean, to circumnavigate Africa — a weeks-long voyage. That would have limited use in signaling Israel’s readiness to retaliate should it ever come under an Iranian nuclear attack.
Shorter-term, the submarines’ conventional missiles could also be deployed in any Israeli strikes on Iran’s atomic sites, which Tehran insists have only civilian energy purposes.
Israel has the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal but does not discuss this under an "ambiguity" policy billed as deterring its enemies while avoiding provocations.
Each German-made Dolphin has 10 torpedo tubes, four of them widened at Israel’s request — to accommodate, some independent analysts believe, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. But there have been questions about whether these would have the 1,500-km (1,000-mile) range needed to hit Iran from the Mediterranean.
Israel plans to acquire two more Dolphins early next decade. Naval analysts say this could allow it to set up a rotation whereby some of the submarines patrol distant shores while others secure the Israeli coast or dock to undergo maintenance.
Arab Israeli Don’t "love" Israel
Meanwhile, Israel’s Jerusalem Post quoted its Housing and Construction Minister, Ariel Attias, as saying Jews and Arabs should not live next to each other.
"We can all be bleeding hearts, but I think it is unsuitable to live together," the minister was quoted as telling the Israel Bar Association in Tel Aviv.
"Arabs don’t have where to live, so they buy apartments in places with a Jewish nature, which causes unwanted friction," said Attias, of the religious Shas party.
In a reference to Arab Israelis, he also complained about "the expansion of a population that doesn’t love the state of Israel, to say the least."
The minister also warned Israel was in danger of "losing the Galilee" if the Arab Israeli population continued to "spread" in the North and called a plan to build a haredi community in the area a "mission of national importance" that could help "stop the expansion," the paper reported.
The English-language newspaper quoted Arab-Israeli MP Ahmed Tibi as chiding Attias.
(Alarabiya.net English and News Agencies)