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.”