Murder in Dubai

Leading Israeli figures are congratulating themselves over the assassination of the Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel. But the affair has been escalating every day. While Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman gleefully said there was ‘no proof’ that the Mossad spy agency carried out the killing, the opposition Kadima leader Tzipi Livni applauded the killing. Her comment: “The fact that a terrorist was killed, and it doesn’t matter if it was in Dubai or Gaza, is good news to those fighting terrorism.”

The Dubai authorities have been releasing information drip by drip that increasingly points the finger at the Israeli secret service Mossad. And the controversy refuses to go sway. Israel has declined to confirm or deny it carried out the assassination. Most statements made in Israel only deepen the mystery, or signal Mossad’s involvement in the assassination in a foreign country in violations of that country’s laws.

The operation may have succeeded in eliminating a leading Palestinian opponent of Israel. However, its political fallout should not be underestimated as Israel is under unprecedented international pressure. The authorities in Dubai have been making new revelations almost every day.

These disclosures reinforce the sense of a botched operation that could have serious consequences for the ability of Israelis to move around the world. And they have put friendly governments on the spot.

No wonder there are loud complaints and verbal expressions of outrage, though little concrete action in terms of uncovering the facts. And the British government has had to strenuously deny suggestions that it might have been told by a serving officer of Mossad in advance of the Hamas official’s assassination.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia is the latest to reprimand Israel over the forging of Australian passports used in the killing. Describing himself as a life-long supporter of Israel, Rudd said he was ‘deeply concerned’ about the affair and pledged that Australia would  ‘not be silent on this matter’. His government did not expressly blame Israel. Rather it summoned Israel’s ambassador Yuval Rotem and demanded an explanation. The Israelis have so far refused to talk about the affair.

With the latest information made available by Dubai, the total number of fake foreign passports used by the assassins is 26, including  –  

United Kingdom – 12

Irish Republic 6  

French 4

Australian 3

German 1

The government of Dubai has demanded the arrest of the Mossad chief – a move an Israeli official has ridiculed. But Interpol has issued ‘wanted notices’ for a number of suspects. It is a serious matter. More serious are political repercussions for Israel and the vestiges of President Obama’s hopes of restarting the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

The likelihood of the British government initiating change in the UK law on universal jurisdiction has suffered a setback. Serving and ex-Israeli officials would have to think hard before visiting Britain and other countries. And the assassination would encourage Israel’s opposition abroad. We have certainly not heard the last of the affair.

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