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MER - Washington - 21 October, 1997:

The notion that its all Netanyahu's fault is quite clearly incorrect.  Rabin and Peres ordered various assassinations when in power.  The "peace process" was stalemated and fatally flawed before Bibi became PM.

Indeed it was the assassination of Yehya Ayash in January 1996 in "autonomous" Gaza that unleashed
Hamas bombers and helped bring about Peres' electoral defeat later that year.  Plus let's not forget the unprecedented massacre bombing (and attempted cover-up) of the U.N. base at Qana in April 1996 as Peres desperately attempted to prove his macho to Israeli voters... to no avail.
Is Bibi even more crass and more duplicitous then those who came before him?  It's less that then the
fact that he's just not as good at manipulating and deceiving.  Labor has a long history of saying one
thing and doing another.  Likud is always playing catch-up in this regard.

These caveats remembered, this recent Op Ed by Eric Margolis in Canada is worth reading.

State-sponsored assassination is a tricky, unpredictable business...
by Eric Margolis

Israel's botched attempt to assassinate an official of the Palestinian Hamas movement on Sept. 25 in Amman, Jordan has changed the Mideast's political landscape, brought worldwide condemnation down Israel, and shows dramatically why state-sponsored murder is best avoided.

Assassination is always a tricky, dangerously unpredictable, business that's best avoided.

So concluded the best minds in U.S. intelligence a decade ago. Israel's floundering prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just learned this important lesson.

You don't send out assassins without first asking, "What happens if the attempt fails?" Mossad is probably the world's ablest intelligence service.

Even so, some operations are bound by the law of averages to go awry.

The attack on Khalid Meshal by five Israeli agents disguised as Canadian tourists looked like a rushed mission mounted without Mossad's usual meticulous preparation, suggesting someone high-up ordered an immediate hit.

Why was a not-so-important Hamas political official targeted?

The Israeli press says Meshal was not even involved in previous Hamas bombings. Why not go after hardcore Hamas bombers instead?

One easily sympathizes with the Israeli government's desire to take drastic action to counter terrorism. Israel has been shocked and terrified by Hamas suicide bombers blowing up Jewish civilians. The public
demanded action.

But what would killing Meshal have accomplished? His murder would certainly have triggerd new Hamas bombings.

Had the Mossad assassins gotten away with killing Meshal--by using an unknown poison injected into his ear that apparently left no trace--who would have known of Israel's revenge?

How many other Mideast figures have been killed by Mossad's invisible venom? If Yasser Arafat dies of natural causes, will Israel be blamed--and bombed--anyway?

As a democracy, civilized society and military superpower, Israel should not be running a Mideast version of Murder Inc.

To see how wrong this policy is, put the shoe on the other foot.

Last year, a U.N. investigation found Israel specifically shelled the Qana refugee camp in south Lebanon, which was packed with families of Hezbollah guerrillas.

Over 100 Lebanese civilians, women and children, were killed. They died as surely and bloodily from Israeli 155 mm shells as did Jews from nail-packed Hamas bombs.

Does Lebanon's government have the right under Israel's eye-for-an-eye policy to send hit teams to kill Israeli generals and officials who authorized the Qana attack? Can Palestinians go after Israeli officers
who used anti-personnel cluster bombs and napalm against refugee camps?

Can Lebanon rightfully assassinate Israel's Gen. Ariel Sharon, who, in 1982, ordered the invasion of Lebanon and massive shelling of Beirut that killed 15,700 Lebanese civilians?

Two days before attempting to kill Meshal, Israel reportedly received a message from Hamas offering a 10-year ceasefire in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and ending Jewish settlements. Netanyahu claims he only got this exceptionally important message after the botched assassination.

His supporters blame Mossad chief Danny Yatom for sitting on the message. Yatom denies it. This is part of a furious battle of leaks raging between Mossad and Netanyahu's cabinet.

Some Netanyahu supporters claim the Mossad hit was a rogue operation never authorized by the prime minister.

Mossad partisans leak back that it was all Netanyahu's hair-brained [sic] idea--and that he's now trying to make Mossad chief Yatom fall guy for the fiasco.

Other critics say a hard-line cabal inside Mossad is determined to thwart any peace with Palestinians-- which is likely true.

All this finger-pointing looks like the beginning of a second Lavon Affair.

In 1954-55, Israel sought to sabotage warming relations between the U.S. and Nasser's Egypt. Israeli intelligence recruited Egyptian Jews and ordered them to plant bombs in U.S. libraries and cinemas showing American films.

The agents were caught and hanged. A huge scandal erupted in Israel. The government claimed it was a rogue operation run by defense minister Pinhas Lavon. He insisted it was ordered by the government. Lavon was sacked. To this day, the affair remains shrouded in mystery. Debate over the Amman fiasco will probably rage on for years.

Meanwhile, the failed plot has ignited a train of strange events. To divert blame from Israel, a former Canadian ambassador to Israel endangered his countrymen's lives by suggesting Canada was involved in the plot.

In another bizarre twist, while publicly ordering Arafat to keep arresting Hamas members, Netanyahu freed from prison Hamas founder Sheik Yassin, and 70 other Hamas "terrorists" in order to get his would-be assassins back from Jordanian custody.

Palestinians, enraged by Netanyahu's crude sabotage of the peace process and economic punishments, see the increasingly unpopular Arafat as an American-Israeli stooge. Half now support Hamas.

Netanyahu's blunders have suddenly transformed Hamas into a major, even legitimate political player.  Small wonder Netanyahu and Arafat have resumed talks. They've been scared into each other's unloving arms by a surging Hamas.

A horrified  Netanyahu may even find he's created a sort of Palestinian Khomeini--a nice irony, since Israel help found Hamas in the 1980s to rival the PLO. Netanyahu came to power by claiming he would give Israel security.

What he's given, so far, is a deepening mess and the threat of much more bloodshed.
[The Calgary Sun, October 11, 1997]


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