Commentary Magazine


Re: A Dubai Victory

I’m with Noah Pollak. I fail to see how the rub-out of Hamas leader Muhammad al-Mabhouh in Dubai was a debacle and embarrassment for Israel, as so widely proclaimed. That is the premise of this Wall Street Journal article by Israeli analyst Ronen Bergman. He calls the mission “a diplomatic nightmare for Israel”: “The sovereignty of Dubai was violated, and the passports of four European countries were used for the purpose of committing a crime. Several rows Israel can ill-afford are currently brewing with England, Germany and France.” True, but those rows will blow over. There is a certain ritualistic, not to say hypocritical, aspect to these controversies — since there is little doubt that intelligence operatives of all the countries involved use false passports on occasion. Sometimes even — gasp – they use false passports purportedly issued by other countries. Were Mossad agents supposed to show up in Dubai using Israeli passports?

The bigger point is that Israeli operatives succeeded in killing a dangerous foe and made a clean getaway. Even their identities remain unknown, despite the posting of surveillance video. In short, this was nothing like the attempted assassination of Hamas leader Khalid Mishal in 1997. Now that was a truly bungled operation. Two Mossad agents in Amman injected Mishal with a lethal nerve toxin but they were chased down and caught by his bodyguards. King Hussein of Jordan then forced Israel to provide the antidote; the agents were later released in return for the Israeli release of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas’s founder. Yassin, in turn, was killed by a Hellfire missile fired by an Israeli helicopter in 2004.

Funny how no one seriously objects when U.S. Predators carry out similar hits on al-Qaeda operatives but the whole world is in uproar when the Israelis target members of Hamas — an organization that is morally indistinguishable from al-Qaeda. The Dubai uproar only highlights once again the double standard to which Israel is constantly subjected. But Israel cannot and should not use that double standard as an excuse to avoid taking vital action in its self-defense. The leaders of terrorist organizations are legitimate military targets, and Israel should spare itself the agonizing and hand-wringing over this targeted killing.