February 18, 2010

Israel Loses Legal War in Dubai

As Sun Tzu observed long ago, many battles and wars are won or lost before they begin. The assassination of Hamas arms dealer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh is such a case.

Israel was defeated at the strategic level the moment it decided to killed al-Mabhouh, particularly in a Gulf state like Abu Dubai. His death might be “one for the good guys,” but his loss will have little impact on Hamas’ command structure, even if it did “expose Hamas’s soft underbelly.”

In fact Israel’s problem stems from this exact mindset, valuing military over non-military means, tactical over strategic objectives. This is why killing al-Mabhouh was a non-starter from the beginning, destined to be more trouble than he was worth.

A day after Dubai police chief Lieutenant-General Dahi Khalfan Tamim informed reporters that he’s “99%, if not 100% certain” that the Mossad is behind his killing, he was quoted as saying,“Our investigations reveal that Mossad is involved in the murder of al-Mabhouh.”

Tamim is said to be preparing an arrest warrant for Meir Dagan, the Mossad chief, who happens to be feeling the heat at home, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The London Times reports, “An insider close to the case confirmed that Mr Dagan and Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, are top of the Gulf state’s wanted list.”

And now Interpol has issued red notices, its highest alert level, for 11 suspects as requested by General Tamim. Keep in mind that he would be doing none of this without approval from the Abu Dubai government.

The sum of these events vividly demonstrates the fatal crack in Israel’s impenetrable armor - when it steps out of that armor. Superior military force has spawned lawfare blow-back, teleporting the battle from the military to legal battlefield where Israel is weaker and vulnerable.

Israel has already lost the battle because killing al-Mabhouh was only one aspect of the battle. Getting away is also part of the battle and it will not end quickly; instead the legal sphere is where the main part of the battle will be fought. Consider the assassination an opening salvo.

Whether Israel continues to value its own security over all others and all other factors is a result of arrogance, fear, or stupidity - or a combination of many factors - is still up for debate. As much as arrogance and fear play a role, at some point arrogance becomes stupidity. How Israel is fighting is not the way to fight in the 21st century.

Pride and ego still foster intelligence, but Israel’s strategy makes no sense.

After awarding Israel the victory in military battle, it goes on to lose the political, diplomatic, legal, and media battles that form the total battle of al-Mabhouh’s assassination, which is part of the wider war against Hamas.

Inevitability pervades Israel’s situation. Diplomatic rows with Britain and Ireland may amount to nothing in themselves because Britain apparently was in on the hit. They could, however, effect negotiations since America obviously knew as well.

Any sinister connection between Israel and Western states is another propaganda defeat and will drive Hamas to be that much more paranoid.

Israel’s flimsy defense is also unlikely to hold up - “shrugging off” accusations and demanding hard proof. Again, this mindset is the ultimate weakness. Even if no proof is ever presented almost everyone in the world believes the Mossad did the deed.

Israel demonstrates a lack of understanding of the dynamics between the legal court and the court of public opinion, believing denial will save it. But Israel has already lost in the court of public opinion, and the legal case looks doomed. Add these losses to the possibility of losing Dagan, and the price of al-Mabhouh is too high to be termed an Israel victory.

Defeat looms large. Tamim told Al-Bayan, another UAE newspaper based in Dubai, that, "Dubai police has more evidence, apart from the tapes and photos that were revealed earlier".

"The coming days will carry more surprises which will leave no room for doubt.”


  1. This was an Israeli state sponsored hit in a foreign sovereign country. It is not enough for public opinion to recognize this. The international courts have to bring this to trial. Israel and its leaders must be held accountable for this. Or else, where does it end?

  2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/7258631/British-threat-to-Israel-over-Dubai-Hamas-assassination.html

    The Telegraph also has other articles on this.

  3. It never ends, does it? The problem with bringing al-Mabhouh's case to trial is that he isn't a suitable candidate to legally challenge Israel. The West will have an even harder time going after Israel when the defendant is Hamas, considering it barely budged on the Goldstone report. But a specific country's legal system might prove more effective in holding Israel lawfully accountable. Interpol, if it can catch its wanted Mossad agents, will extradite them back to Dubai for trial in a national court, where Israel is more susceptible than an international court. May not be much, but would be a start.

    I would also never underestimate the power of public opinion going into the next decade of this conflict. Nothing will ever happen as fast as Palestinians' needs demand, but Israel is slowly becoming politically isolated. This is a relatively new trend compared to 2000 and, when projected over the next 5 or 10 years, spells real trouble for Israel.

  4. You have more faith in [public opinion] than I do. Yes the streets are important. But, as long as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan do not take major active rolls. I fear that the streets will be silenced. How much more patience is expected of the Palestinian people. How much more suffering must they endure. Patience is a virtue, but freedom is a God given right.

  5. I certainly agree that patience is something we have and Palestinians don't, and it's hard to ask them to wait longer. Though I too would like to see the status quo shaken up, I cannot realistically say how Israel will be politically or legally challenged any time soon, only that each error erodes its strength a little at a time. This is the most tangible solace I can find for now.

  6. Although Palestinian infighting doesn't leave the door open for optimism. Without reconciliation they'll never achieve their goal, whether this is a peaceful, sovereign Palestinian state or the elimination of Israel. Can't fight others if you're busy fighting yourself. Right now Palestinians are squandering their potential power.

  7. Agreed. IMHO: The Palestinians need new leadership.

    "each error erodes its strength a little at a time" This is like taking a pebble of sand off the beach, one at a time. Outside intervention must be put into place. So, I guess you are correct, that GLOBAL public opinion has to turn.

  8. http://www.ramzybaroud.net/

    This fits in perfectly with what we are talking about.

  9. The Mossad slipped up big this time. Everything has become a joke to Israel too. I’m no fan of Hamas, but cheap assassinations like al-Mabhouh don’t serve any purpose. I can account for what you guys are talking about, my support for Israel has waned over the years. Now I tend to agree that Israel is gradually setting itself up for collapse.

  10. Yes, Ramzy publishes our Israeli analysis. He and anyone like him embodies the long fight.

  11. Anonymous, most Americans want an end to Israel's special relationship. I really do think this trend will have negative consequences for Israel, regardless of the level that influence is. Asymmetric warfare is a long process by nature, though it's speeding up in the 21st century.