The immunity of the thief of the Middle East

Mostafa Zein

It is nothing new to say that the entire Arab world is a battle zone for a war launched by Israel against the Palestinians. It makes no difference to Israel whether a country is in North Africa or in the Levant, whether it is a friend or an enemy, whether its relations with it are open or secret, or whether it stood with it in its war against Lebanon and Gaza or condemned the Lebanese and the Palestinians and held them responsible.

In 1997, the head of the politburo of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, was the victim of an assassination attempt in Jordan. Israel did not take into consideration that it had a peace agreement with Jordan, or that King Hussein was personally trying to engineer a truce between Israel and Hamas, as was revealed later. Perhaps the operation was a bid to block these efforts, as Benjamin Netanyahu in person gave the order to carry it out, whatever the cost, provided it is a complete success. However, the perpetrators were quite stupid and failed miserably, which required the US to intervene and respond to King Hussein’s request for an antidote to be sent for the poison, with which Mashal was injected. The man was saved. The dispute was settled. The issue remained within the acceptable limits, “so as not to affect the peace process.”

From the assassination attempt against Mashal 13 years ago to the assassination of another leader in Hamas, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in Dubai, Israel carried out many attacks against Palestinians in the Arab world and elsewhere. Some have succeeded, but most have failed, without having an impact on the relations of Tel Aviv with states, where the attacks took place. This has encouraged Israel to continue with them, considering them to be legitimate. No one has gone farther than a denunciation in the media. Perhaps the attitude of Britain, France and Ireland, after the al-Mabhouh operation was revealed, is the best example of this. The reaction of the three countries went no further than “hosting” the ambassadors of Netanyahu, and not summoning them, to cooperate in clarifying what took place and how passports from these countries were used in the assassination. Were they real passports, or forgeries? In Israel itself, everyone got angry, not because the attack hurt relations with Dubai and other countries, but because Mossad had failed, and looked like a group of amateurs.

The weak reactions, some of which were encouraging, tempt Israel to continue in this policy of assassinations, which has perhaps been adopted as an alternative to its big wars, especially after the failure of the ones against Lebanon and Gaza. The two wars forced Israel to spend considerable money and effort to recover its deterrent capability, after the myth of its invincibility was destroyed and the image of its army shaken, an army that serves as a factory for generals and political leaders, and the source of the civilian and military society in the country.

Dubai has succeeded in exposing the scandal of Israel and its intelligence bodies and there is work underway in Europe and the US to contain it. However, Tel Aviv has been busy with studying the issue in order to anticipate malfunction in future cases. The acts of thievery will not cease, since the thief of the Middle East enjoys immunity, which results from the weakness of others.

*Published in the London-based AL-HAYAT on Feb. 23, 2010.


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