The Real Significance of the Attempted Israeli Assassination of Khaled Meshal in Jordan
By Israel Shahak
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 1998, Page 8
In the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes is often made to say that "the important thing is that the dog did not bark" on the night the crime was committed. Similarly, despite voluminous media coverage of the Khaled Meshal affair, the real issues and right questions have been deliberately omitted. Instead, the affair was used as another attempt to topple Netanyahu from power. Ironically, the backlash from this attempt has increased his popularity.
There is nothing new in the fact that Israel is a terrorist state which, almost from its inception, has used one of its intelligence agencies, the Mossad, to carry out violence or terror, including assassination, it considers necessary for its ends. The Israeli terrorism in Lebanon was exhibited in the "Accountability" and "Grapes of Wrath" operations, for example, when so many people were ordered to leave their homes on a day's notice lest they be bombed to death. Such state terrorism was even worse than the assassination of specific individuals.
In fact, however, all Israeli governments have carried out terroristic acts and all Zionist parties support them in principle. To be specific, when he was prime minister, Shimon Peres ordered the assassination of Yehya Ayyash in Area A, supposedly under the sole control of the Palestinian Authority, an act which, according to Hamas, triggered the retaliatory suicide bombings of February-March 1996. (Although I personally doubt this Hamas explanation, there is little doubt that those suicide bombings contributed to the thin majority of votes which elected Binyamin Netanyahu and defeated Peres in the May 1996 election.)
A few months earlier,Yitzhak Rabin ordered the assassination of Fathi Shikaki, head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization, in Malta. One could also cite other acts of terrorism which neither the Israeli opposition parties nor Israeli media have mentioned in connection with the assassination attempt in Amman.
The total refusal to consider the issue of state-terrorism in general, and Israel's frequent use of terror in particular, has led Netanyahu's Israeli and American Jewish critics to concentrate on the purely pragmatic issues of whether the assassination attempt in Amman was "wise" at this time and who was to blame for its failure. The truth, however, is that the record of past Mossad failures is quite extensive.
The record of past Mossad failures is quite extensive.
To mention only two examples, in the "Lillehammer affair" of 1972 in Norway, a Mossad hit team assassinated a Moroccan waiter instead of the intended Palestinian victim, and then team members compounded their failure by getting caught. Some of them also took refuge in the Israeli Embassy in Oslo, as occurred in the unsuccessful Meshal affair in Amman.
The second example was from the early 1950s, when Israeli agents in Egypt, under the direction of a military intelligence agency rather than Mossad, put firebombs in public places (including theaters and U.S. diplomatic missions in Cairo and Alexandria) to cause Britain to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the Suez Canal Zone. The attempt was even more stupid than it was criminal, and the result was a colossal failure, with all but one of the perpetrators being caught.
Both of these acts of terrorism were ordered by Labor governments. Thus, it was easy for Netanyahu supporters to point to the fact that when acts of terrorism ordered by Labor governments fail, Likud and the right wing in general "behave responsibly"--that is, they don't try to make political profit (or too much of it) from what are, after all, failures of Israeli policies, while the "left" does not behave in this patriotic way. Since Netanyahu critics are, in any case, part of a decaying elite which exhibits, in the most vulgar way, its mistaken belief that "only we know how to conduct affairs," and since it is easy to connect such arrogance with the persistent gulf between the European Ashkenazi and the Oriental Sephardic Jews, the vehement criticism of Netanyahu created a backlash in his favor that illustrated how completely his "leftist" opponents have lost touch with what most people feel.
In my own view the failure is a secondary matter for which the Mossad and its chief, Danny Yatom (appointed by Peres in a doubtful manner a few weeks before the elections), are primarily responsible. In fact, after the failure became known to him, Netanyahu behaved as competently as possible. In any case, his popular support has increased, especially among "the floating vote." The most prominent commentators agree that if elections were to be held now Netanyahu would win again and I, too, am of this view.
As for Israeli relations with Jordan, they will continue more or less as before, just as Israeli relations with neither Britain nor Norway were seriously damaged by Mossad involvement in assassinations in those states. As the Hebrew press puts it, "according to information from foreign sources" Jordan has permitted Mossad to operate a large establishment in the center of Amman. In my view this occurred for many years before the peace treaty was signed between the two countries. This is proof enough that Jordan, or the Hashemite regime if one prefers the expression, has a very strong interest in "doing business" with Israeli intelligence for its own reasons.
One must add that the Israeli minister who succeeded, in the end, in striking a deal with King Hussein was Ariel Sharon, whose power in Israel was much enhanced by this success. In the future some niceties will perhaps be observed. The large Mossad establishment may have to operate from a more discreet site than before, but I have no doubt that the same arrangement will continue between Israel and Jordan, no matter what is said in public.
Dr. Israel Shahak, a Holocaust survivor and retired professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is chairman of the Israeli League of Human and Civil Rights.