New York – Monday night at Israel Policy Forum’s symposium in New York on “Security and the New Middle East,” former Director of the Mossad Efraim Halevy spoke directly about President Obama’s efforts to “extricate” the six Israelis trapped inside the Israeli embassy in Cairo last Friday night:
“We’ve been talking these days about Turkey and about Egypt. And I would like to say something about the event which took place last Friday evening or through the night in Cairo, which I think to a large extent was a seminal event, not only in the history of the Middle East but also in the history of the relations between Israel and Egypt, and between Israel and the United States of America.
During that night, as you know, our embassy was surrounded and was on the verge of being stormed. And the Prime Minister went to the special command center in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and from there he actually ran and commanded this operation of trying to extricate our staff from the embassy. And, at the end, there were six people left, six people of the security detail of the embassy. They were there inside the last room, which had been the ultimate room in the embassy. And, they had one steel door, which was between them and the mob.
And the Prime Minister took many very, very important decisions that night. Successful decisions, very responsible decisions. And for that he has been lauded, and rightly so I think by the public in Israel and by the population at large for his cool and his measured way of handling this crisis.
But one of the decisions he had to take in the end, he wanted to take, was to find ways of extricating his people, our people, out of that embassy. And he turned to one man, to the President of the United States, and he spoke to him. And the President of the United States, without having much time to consult with Congress, and with the media, and with the analysts and with all of the other people who have to be consulted on major and grave decisions. He took a decision to take up the telephone and get on the line with the powers that be in Egypt, and get them to order the release of these six people, and the detail of the Egyptian commando forces entered and saved them.
I think that this decision by President Obama was a unique decision in many ways. Because I don’t have to tell you, and this was just said time and time and over again this afternoon/this evening, that the United States is not in a position the way it was many years ago in the Middle East, it has its problems, it has its considerations, and rightly so. But I believe the leadership that the President of the United States showed on that night was a leadership of historic dimensions. It was he who took the ultimate decision that night which prevented what could have been a sad outcome—instead of six men coming home, the arrival in Israel of six body bags.
And I want to say to you very openly and very clearly that had there been six body bags, there would have been a much different Israel today than we have been used to seeing over recent years. This would not have been one more incident, one more operation, one event. And the man who brought this about was one man, and that was President Barack Hussein Obama.
And I believe it is our duty as Israelis, as citizens of the free world, to say, not simply thank you President Obama, but also we respect you for the way and the manner in which you took this decision.”