Mossad’s Mission: Impossible

For more than a month, Western governments have chastised Israel for the alleged forgery of their citizens’ passports for their use in the assassination in Dubai of Hamas terrorist mastermind Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The outrage shows no sign of abating. Interpol has posted the suspects’ pictures on its website and issued red alerts for all 27 members of the suspected hit squad, which, by the size of it, might as well have been an Olympic team.

The EU condemned the identity theft of several of its nationals. Israel’s ambassadors in Berlin, Canberra, Dublin, London and Paris were summoned to be “given an opportunity to co-operate” with the ongoing investigation. In diplomatese this translates as: “This is your chance to confess.” 

Diplomatically speaking, warnings, summons and threats will have little enduring consequence. Still, the Dubai hit fanned the selective moral outrage among the commentariat in the countries involved. They conveniently forgot, however, that some of their countries were currently engaged in a war in Afghanistan that relied heavily on extra-judicial killings, some of which had caused considerable collateral damage. Forgotten, too, was that Hamas, according to the EU, was a terrorist organisation. 

Although there is no smoking gun (pun intended) showing Israel’s involvement, the Dubai police version was taken as “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

As for the outrage about a secret service forging foreign passports, anyone familiar with James Bond, Jason Bourne and the Mission Impossible franchise knows that that is what secret agents do — they travel on false passports. Even assuming Israel is responsible for the assassination, did anyone expect that Israelis would show up in Dubai,  a country with which it has no diplomatic ties and is still officially at war, waving their Israeli passports? Imagine the conversation at passport control:

UAE immigration officer: Nationality?

Mossad agent: Israeli.

Officer: Occupation?

Agent: Mossad agent.

Officer: Purpose of your visit?

Agent: Targeted killing of a top Hamas terrorist.

Officer: Welcome to our country. Have a nice day.

If those involved had not been caught on camera, there would not have been so much grief in London, Paris or Canberra. The problem, for Western governments whose passports were forged for the hit, is not the deed itself, but the embarrassment resulting from the exposure.

The righteous outrage at Israel had clearly forgotten to take into account the obvious: given al-Mabhouh’s record, as my colleague at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, Claudia Rosett, noted in a recent Forbes column, where is the outrage about Dubai’s cavalier behaviour towards al-Mabhouh? Its immigration authorities let a terrorist enter its territory, meet business contacts and probably conduct business and financial transactions through the Dubai banking system. Should there not be some accountability here? What is Interpol planning to do about this?

Why did the Dubai police confidently announce that two of the fugitives made their way to Iran on a boat? Surely, Iran’s shores are no safe haven for Mossad agents. Why did accusations made by Hamas spokesmen that Jordan and Egypt might have been behind the killing not elicit a similar summons to the Foreign Office? Why was the fact that the arrests of two Palestinians linked to Mohammad Dahlan — the Palestinian Authority’s former strongman in Gaza and surely a man with some scores to settle with Hamas — not given similar prominence? Al- Mabhouh had more than one enemy. His role in arms transfers from Iran to Gaza would have made him a target not just for Israel but for other regional players as well.

Even if Israel did it, shouldn’t its selfrighteous critics appreciate, even applaud, the deed? After all, as Alan Dershowitz pointed out in a Jerusalem Post column, these are the same people who criticised Israel for using excessive, disproportionate force in Gaza. Surely they should commend Israel for having adopted a new tactic: killing the enemy with no collateral damage?

Al-Mabhouh had personally killed Israelis. He was a terrorist. He deserved to die. And his death is a serious setback to the operations he was running.

There should be little sorrow expressed about sending him to delight with heavenly virgins long before he had planned.

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