Yossi Melman, usually a skeptical reporter on the Israeli intelligence community has written a veritable encomium to Meir Dagan as he prepares to relinquish the reins of the Mossad after eight years in the job. I’m not sure whether he feels it incumbent on himself to write a fond farewell to Dagan as he rides off into the sunset; or whether Melman really believes what he’s written. But in the event the latter is the case, it’s worthwhile to present a counter-view to Melman’s misty-eyed sentimentality.
Here are some of Dagan’s “achievement’s” as Melman sees them:
It was in 2008, while he was chief, that Hezbollah’s “defense minister,” Imad Mughniya was knocked off in Damascus. Hezbollah has since been struggling to find a replacement for Mughniya.
And, criticism leveled by reporters and commentators notwithstanding, the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai attributed to Israel was not a failure.
True, Israel’s relations with Australia, Britain and Ireland sustained some short-term damage as a result, but Hamas hasn’t been able to to find someone to replace al-Mabhouh, both as chief of logistics and as liaison with the ultra-secretive al-Quds force, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Notable that Melman omits Israel’s relations with Dubai, which are in the deep freeze for the long-term. He also omits the tension caused in Israel’s relations with Germany by having an agent exploit a law benefiting Holocaust survivors to obtain fraudulently a German passport.
The truth is that neither Yossi Melman nor Mossad knows how or whether these groups have succeeded in replacing their murdered leaders. The truth will be seen in the next war in Lebanon and Gaza, when the ‘enemy’ once again surprises the IDF with its resiliency and fortitude, and the IDF once again fails to wipe them out. Perhaps then Melman may reevaluate how successful these hits really are.
This story also introduces the North Korean nuclear threat which is rarely discussed in Israeli media except in the context of the latter arming Israel’s enemies like Iran and Syria. In the English translation, Melman writes:
The lesson from North Korea is clear: When a country is determined to develop nuclear weapons, it will find a way to do so despite international pressure and sanctions and despite a successful Mossad chief.
The original Hebrew omits the phrase in italics, which makes the paragraph much more ambiguous. But let’s say that Melman’s real views are to be found in the English translation. If so, then he has really negated much of the force of his praise in the preceding story. The moral of the story then must be that no country or national movement can be deterred from a goal to which it devotes all its energies whether it be a nuclear program or national liberation. So what good, in the end are the assassinations? They delay the inevitable. And by how long? A few months maybe? And then there is always the eventual moral and legal reckoning for these crimes, an issue Melman avoids in his own characterization as if there will be no long-term accounting regarding these killings. Of course, there will be. But better not to think too much about that and spoil Meirke’s party.