A James Bond Flick Gone Bad….Israel Feels the Heat
Last week, I wrote a little post about the mysterious assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the man responsible for smuggling Iranian-made weapons into the Gaza Strip. In case you missed it (which you probably haven’t), the killing occurred in a Dubai hotel room on January 19, presumably by a group of 11 Europeans. Minus the electrocution and suffocation of the victim, the operation was caught by Dubai security cameras from all sides, adding a quality reminiscent of an action flick to the entire thing (by the way, if you want to look at the video, just do a quick Google search).
Well that was then. A couple of things have happened over the past few days which are of dramatic importance in this case. First off, more suspects have been named in the operation. UAE authorities have released the names of another 15 people involved in the assassination. Eight more people turned up in Israel on Thursday, claiming that their identities were stolen and used to travel to the United Arab Emirates. And if the claims are indeed confirmed, this brings the total to an astounding 34 people, with the vast majority of them using passports of Israeli origin.
International uproar is at its highest point in the entire affair. Great Britain, France, and Ireland are extremely upset that Israel may have used European passports in the hit without permission, so much so that the British Government summoned the Israeli Ambassador to the U.K. for a brief sit-down. And of course, this does not even mention Arab attitudes about the assassination, which typically hasn’t been all that positive in the first place.
Israel hasn’t officially commented to the media, and is not expected to; the Jewish state is known to keep quite on national-security matters, neither confirming nor denying an operation took place. But others are keenly waiting, and some are starting to ask whether Israel’s spy service (the Mossad) is actually keeping Israel safer. The Economist devotes an entire article to this question, and people from all over the political spectrum are chiming into the debate.
Naturally, I couldn’t sit on the sidelines without spewing my own assessment of the situation.
While it’s hard to pinpoint with complete accuracy, there is evidence confirming that Mossad has kept Israel relatively safe from potential attacks. The agency is small, yet highly effective in what they do. Intelligence agencies and clandestine network throughout the world view the Israeli spy service as the most proficient in sophisticated operations. The fact that Mossad officials have infiltrated hostile territory with ease in the past demonstrates how meticulous the organization is. Hezbollah and Hamas- the Islamic militants responsible for most of Israel’s troubles over the past few years- know this full well. In fact, the assassination of a top Hamas commander in Dubai only verifies this belief in their minds.
Yet while Mossad may be a highly successful organization when it comes to counterterrorism, you have to wonder why they picked the United Arab Emirates as the location for the killing. Did they assume that Dubai authorities would give Israel a pass in the name of national-security? If so, it would appear that the Israelis forgot that there is a little thing called state sovereignty.
Questions about the assassination continue to circulate, there is still tons of speculation out there, and I suspect we will probably hear more news from Dubai authorities in the coming weeks. But what is clear is that Mossad made a tactical error; they embarrassed a moderate Arab country in front of the entire international community. Israel needs all the help it can get in terms of aid and recognition. Enemies of Israel are prevalent throughout the Middle East, and even traditional allies are becoming less sympathetic to Israel’s aims. Yet despite these circumstances, they chose to alienate an Arab state that is both pro-western and ideologically moderate.
It’s too early to tell, but this incident could severely degrade relations between Israel and the UAE. The last thing the Israeli Government wants is another angry Muslim country, especially when that country is labeled as pragmatic and somewhat tolerant.
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of the Economist**