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Ram Rothberg, a major general (aluf) in the Israeli military who heads the country’s naval forces, mobilized senior commanders for a 10-day exercise in Italy with the U.S. and Italian navies on this date in 2012 — as an April Fool’s prank. Although his orders were supposed to be confined to the top brass, they leaked to lower officers, and three missile ships and their crews were readied at Haifa naval base, with a course charted to Italy. Sailors’ families arrived at the base with gifts and farewells, and the crews were standing at attention on deck by the time Rothberg admitted that it was all a joke. Rothberg served as the chief of naval intelligence during the second Lebanon War, and also led Operation Full Disclosure, a military operation on March 5, 2014, in which Israeli naval commandos seized a vessel that had sailed from Iran and was loaded with long-range missiles destined for Gaza, concealed in bags of cement.
“Rothberg... wants the navy to no longer be just a sideshow, fighting the enemy’s navy, but to impact developments on land as well.... One clear advantage the navy does have compared to other IDF branches is that when thousands of missiles and rockets are fired during a war, naval forces are almost entirely unexposed to fire, unlike land forces and air force bases. During a war, the navy can operate for many days without returning to port, unlike aircraft, which must land after missions and then fly back through missile-infested skies.... ‘I believe that the future of the State of Israel is in the sea,’ he says. ‘In another decade, 70 percent of our energy will come from there, so we will need sea vessels that are appropriate for defending our economic waters.’” —Amos Harel, Haaretz