Dubious in Dubai
FROM TIME to time I ask myself: what would happen if
the world's governments decided to abolish all their
spy agencies simultaneously?
True, it would be a great blow to the authors and movie
producers who make their living from secret service
stories. Their products would lose their appeal.
It would be a disaster for the huge army of fans which
gobbles up spy adventures, the enthusiastic consumers
of books and movies about superhuman heroes like James
Bond and super-devious geniuses like John La Carre's Smiley.
But what would be the real damage if Washington stopped
spying on Moscow and Moscow stopped spying on
Washington, and both on Beijing? The result would be a
draw. Immense sums of money would be saved, since a
large part of the efforts of every spy agency is
devoted to obstructing the intrigues of the
competition. How many diseases could be overcome? How
many hungry people fed, how many illiterates taught to
read and write?
The popular books and movies celebrate the imaginary
successes of the intelligence agencies. Reality is much
more prosaic, and it is replete with real failures.
THE TWO classic intelligence disasters occurred during
World War II. In both, the intelligence agencies either
provided their political bosses with faulty
assessments, or the leaders ignored their accurate
assessments. As far as the results are concerned, both
amount to the same.
Comrade Stalin was totally surprised by the German
invasion of the Soviet Union, even though the Germans
needed months to assemble their huge invasion force.
President Roosevelt was totally surprised by the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, even though the bulk
of the Japanese Navy took part in it. The failures were
so fantastic, that spy aficionados had to resort to
conspiracy theories to explain them. One such theory
says that Stalin deliberately ignored the warnings
because he intended to surprise Hitler with an attack
of his own. Another theory asserts that Roosevelt
practically "invited" the Japanese to attack because he
was in need of a pretext to push the US into an unpopular war.
But since then, failures continued to follow each
other. All Western spy agencies were totally surprised
by the Khomeini revolution in Iran, the results of
which are still hitting the headlines today. All of
them were totally surprised by the collapse of the
Soviet Union, one of the defining events of the 20th
century. They were totally surprised by the fall of the
Berlin wall. And all of them provided wrong information
about Saddam Hussein's imaginary nuclear bomb, which
served as a pretext for the American invasion of Iraq.
AH, OUR people say, that's what's happening among the
Goyim. Not here. Our intelligence community is like no
other. The Jewish brain has invented the Mossad, which
knows everything and is capable of everything. (Mossad
- "institute" - is short for the "Institute for
Intelligence and Special Operations".)
Really? At the outbreak of the 1948 war, all the chiefs
of our intelligence community unanimously advised David
Ben-Gurion that the armies of the Arab states would not
intervene. (Fortunately, Ben-Gurion rejected their
assessment.) In May 1967, our entire intelligence
community was totally surprised by the concentration of
the Egyptian army in Sinai, the step that led to the
Six-Day war. (Our intelligence chiefs were convinced
that the bulk of the Egyptian army was busy in Yemen,
where a civil war was raging.) The Egyptian-Syrian
attack on Yom Kippur, 1973, completely surprised our
intelligence services, even though heaps of advance
warnings were available.
The intelligence agencies were totally surprised by the
first intifada, and then again by the second. They were
totally surprised by the Khomeini revolution, even
though (or because) they were deeply imbedded in the
Shah's regime. They were totally surprised by the Hamas
victory in the Palestinian elections.
The list is long and inglorious. But in one field, so
they say, our Mossad performs like no other:
assassinations. (Sorry, "eliminations".)
STEVEN SPIELBERG'S movie "Munich" describes the
assassination ("elimination") of PLO officials after
the massacre of the athletes at the Olympic Games. As a
masterpiece of kitsch it can be compared only to the
movie "Exodus", based on Leon Uris' kitschy book.
After the massacre (the main responsibility for which
falls on the incompetent and irresponsible Bavarian
police), the Mossad, on the orders of Golda Meir,
killed seven PLO officials, much to the joy of the
revenge-thirsty Israeli public. Almost all the victims
were PLO diplomats, the civilian representatives of the
organization in European capitals, who had no direct
connection with violent operations. Their activities
were public, they worked in regular offices and lived
with their families in residential buildings. They were
static targets - like the ducks in a shooting gallery.
In one of the actions - which resembled the latest
affair - a Moroccan waiter was assassinated by mistake
in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer. The Mossad
mistook him for Ali Hassan Salameh, a senior Fatah
officer who served as contact with the CIA. The Mossad
agents, including a glamorous blonde (there is always a
glamorous blonde) were identified, arrested and
sentenced to long prison terms (but released very
soon). The real Salameh was "eliminated" later on.
In 1988, five years before the Oslo agreement, Abu
Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir), the No. 2 in Fatah, was
assassinated in Tunis before the eyes of his wife and
children. Had he not been killed, he would probably be
serving today as the President of the Palestinian
Authority instead of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas). He
would have enjoyed the same kind of standing among his
people as did Yasser Arafat - who was, most likely,
killed by a poison that leaves no traces.
The fiasco that most resembles the latest action was
the Mossad's attempt on the life of Khalid Mishal, a
senior Hamas leader, on orders of Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu. The Mossad agents ambushed him on a
main street of Amman and sprayed a nerve toxin in his
ear - that was about to kill him without leaving
traces. They were caught on the spot. King Hussein, the
Israeli government's main ally in the Arab world, was
livid and delivered a furious ultimatum: either Israel
would immediately provide the antidote to the poison
and save Mishal's life, or the Mossad agents would be
hanged. Netanyahu, as usual, caved in, Mishal was saved
and the Israeli government, as a bonus, released Sheik
Ahmed Yassin, the main Hamas leader, from prison. He
was "eliminated" by a hellfire missile later on.
DURING THE last weeks, a deluge of words has been
poured on the assassination in Dubai of Mahmoud al-
Mabhouh, another senior Hamas officer.
Israelis agreed from the first moment that this was a
job of the Mossad. What capabilities! What talent! How
did they know, long in advance, when the man would go
to Dubai, what flight he would take, in what hotel he
would stay! What precise planning!
The "military correspondents" and "Arab affairs
correspondents" on screen were radiant. Their faces
said: oh, oh, oh, if the material were not embargoed.If
I could only tell you what I know.I can tell you only
that the Mossad has proved again that its long arm can
reach anywhere! Live in fear, oh enemies of Israel!
When the problems started to become apparent, and the
photos of the assassins appeared on TV all over the
world, the enthusiasm cooled, but only slightly. An old
and proven Israeli method was brought into play: to
take some marginal detail and discuss it passionately,
ignoring the main issue. Concentrate on one particular
tree and divert attention from the forest.
Really, why did the agents use the names of actual
people who live in Israel and have dual nationality?
Why, of all possible passports, did they use those of
friendly countries? How could they be sure that the
owners of these passports would not travel abroad at
the critical time?
Moreover, were they not aware that Dubai was full of
cameras that record every movement? Did they not
foresee that the local police would produce films of
the assassination in almost all its details?
But this did not arouse too much excitement in Israel.
Everybody understood that the British and the Irish
were obliged, pro forma, to protest, but that this was
nothing but going through the motions. Behind the
scenes, there are intimate connections between the
Mossad and the other intelligence agencies. After some
weeks, everything will be forgotten. That's how it
worked in Norway after Lillehammer, that's how it
worked in Jordan after the Mishal affair. They will
protest, rebuke, and that's that. So what is the problem?
THE PROBLEM is that the Mossad in Israel acts like an
independent fiefdom that ignores the vital long-term
political and strategic interests of Israel, enjoying
the automatic backing of an irresponsible prime
minister. It is, as the English expression goes, a
"loose cannon" - the cannon of a ship of yore which has
broken free of its mountings and is rolling around the
deck, crushing to death any unfortunate sailor who
happens to get in its way.
From the strategic point of view, the Dubai operation
causes heavy damage to the government's policy, which
defines Iran's putative nuclear bomb as an existential
threat to Israel. The campaign against Iran helps it to
divert the world's attention from the ongoing
occupation and settlement, and induces the US, Europe
and other countries to dance to its tune.
Barack Obama is in the process of trying to set up a
world-wide coalition for imposing "debilitating
sanctions" on Iran. The Israeli government serves him -
willingly - as a growling dog. He tells the Iranians:
The Israelis are crazy. They may attack you at any
moment. I am restraining them with great difficulty.
But if you don't do what I tell you, I shall let go of
the leash and may Allah have mercy on your soul!
Dubai, a Gulf country facing Iran, is an important
component of this coalition. It is an ally of Israel,
much like Egypt and Jordan. And here comes the same
Israeli government and embarrasses it, humiliates it,
arousing among the Arab masses the suspicion that Dubai
is collaborating with the Mossad.
In the past we have embarrassed Norway, then we
infuriated Jordan, now we humiliate Dubai. Is that
wise? Ask Meir Dagan, who Netanyahu has just granted an
almost unprecedented eighth year in office as chief of
PERHAPS THE impact of the operation on our standing in
the world is even more significant.
Once upon a time it was possible to belittle this
aspect. Let the Goyim say what they want. But since the
Molten Lead operation, Israel has become more conscious
of its far-reaching implications. The verdict of Judge
Goldstone, the echoes of the antics of Avigdor
Lieberman, the growing world-wide campaign for
boycotting Israel - all these tend to suggest that
Thomas Jefferson was not talking through his hat when
he said that no nation can afford to ignore the opinion
The Dubai affair is reinforcing the image of Israel as
a bully state, a rogue nation that treats world public
opinion with contempt, a country that conducts gang
warfare, that sends mafia-like death squads abroad, a
pariah nation to be avoided by right-minded people.
Was this worthwhile?