Aftermath of the alleged Mahmoud Al Mabhouh assassination
By now you should have heard about the alleged Mossad assassination in Dubai of Hamas commander Mahmoud Al Mabhouh that occurred on January 20. Developments have been coming thick and fast in the last few weeks and the incident seems to have spawned a serious diplomatic rift between Israel and Great Britain. According to Haaretz:
Israel’s ambassador to Britain has been summoned to a meeting with a senior Foreign Office official Thursday, to clarify what London called the “identity theft” of six British citizens living in Israel.
Israel’s ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, Zion Evroni, said Wednesday that he too had received a summons from the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs and would be meeting with Minister Michael Martin on Thursday.
In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry officials declined to comment on the matter, but an Israeli diplomat said on condition of anonymity that the government has decided to withhold a public statement until the British message is received, and would then choose how to respond.
Haaretz also asks some serious questions about the alleged assassination in a strongly-worded editorial, casting doubt over the cleanliness of the operation and its necessity, particularly noting that it “placed in harms way” the Israelis whose identities were allegedly stolen, and that it endangers relations with European allies and embarasses the authorities of the United Arab Emirates, considered a moderate Arab regime and a possible US ally in a future strike against Iran.
Hamas has responded by vowing revenge, not particularly surprising, but this adds further fuel to the fire that instead of any moves towards reproachment with Hamas, Israel is still acting as the aggressor.
Another interesting read is Gideon Levy for Haaretz, who asks what actual benefit comes from Israel assassinating key enemy figures:
We eliminated Abbas al-Musawi? Well done, Israel Defense Forces. We got Hassan Nasrallah. We killed Ahmed Yassin? Well done, Shin Bet security service. We got a Hamas many times stronger. Abu Jihad was eliminated? Well done to the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit – of course, according to foreign news reports. We killed a potential partner, relatively moderate and charismatic. As a bonus, we got revenge attacks like those after “the Engineer” Yihyeh Ayash was slain. We also got the danger hovering over every Israeli and Jew in the world each anniversary of the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, which was also blamed on Israel.
It is important to remember that political assassinations are illegal and possibly immoral, but if we look at the alleged assassination from a strategic point of view, what benefit will come to Israel? Levy does an excellent job of pointing out how previous assassinations have contributed nothing positive to Israel’s security in the long term, only possibly harmed it. The Haaretz op-ed points out the international political implications of the hit and the moral implications for Israelis (and Jews considering migrating to Israel) everywhere. It doesn’t hurt to also point out that the current political climate, with advances (albeit small) made by J-Street and the Goldstone Report in helping Israel gain international notoriety for potential human rights abuses may not make the best climate to botch an assassination in a place as globally prominent as Dubai. I don’t think this will lead to any tangible result, such as a conviction, but it will definitely lead to more questions asked by the international community about where exactly Israel is heading as a state and where the lines are to be drawn on our support for it. And that can’t be good for the Israeli PR machine.