19/02/2010

Dubaigate : the inside story

« We are 99%, if not 100% certain of Mossad’s involvement in this murder« . These are the words of Dubai police chief, General Dahi Khalfan Tamim. On January 20, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior official from the military wing of Hamas was assassinated in his hotel in Dubai. The circumstances of the murder and the origins and occupations of the victim quickly oriented UAE investigators on the trail of the Mossad – the Israeli intelligence services. Until then, the case did not interested the Western press a lot. On the Israeli side, if the government kept silent on any role of Mossad, the people welcomed the effectiveness of its intelligence services. 

But earlier this week the case got more complicated. Indeed, false British, Irish, French and German passports were discovered by the Dubai police. They had been used by suspects in the murder of al-Mabhouh and impersonated citizens of those countries who had recently immigrated to Israel. Mossad appears to have committed is a mistake that first leads Israel on the brink of a diplomatic crisis with its European partners, and that secondly generates a real resentment towards the intelligence service within the Israeli population.

The consequences of the diplomatic crisis are difficult to predict. The Guardian sets out possible sanctions from Britain as the maintenance of « universal jurisdiction » law on war crimes in force in the country – which targets, among others, political and military leaders of operation Cast Lead in Gaza – or reassessment of the bilateral relationship with Israel (Israel remains silent over use of forged British passports in Dubai assassination,The Guardian, 18/2/2010). For its part, the Israeli government tries to reassure its people saying that this incident will not cause a major diplomatic crisis (Israel believes Dubai passport row will not cause major crisisHaaretz, 19/2/2010).

Yesterday another revival was added to the thorny case: Muhammad Dahlan, the former national security adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, could be involved in this Dubaï murder. Was this accusation orchestrated by Israel in order to exonerate the Mossad? In any case the complainant’s assertion in an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda (Dahlan denies link to Al Mabhouh murderGulf News, 19/2/2010). Despite this denial, Fatah will probably get out of this further weakened.

Since the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip last winter, Fatah is struggling to retain power in the West Bank. First Israeli sources mentioned a role of the party of Mahmoud Abbas in Operation Cast Lead. No evidence has come to strengthen these allegations, but the damage was done, and Fatah has lost feathers. Last week then, the Israeli television Channel 10 showed how Rafiq Al-Husseini, a close associate of Mahmoud Abbas, had abused his position to sexually harass two women coming to his office for an job interview. Following this scandal, Mahmoud Abbas warned the Israeli authorities that he would resign if other scandals linked to his associates were revealed to the public (Fatah Gate shakes the PA, Abbas threatens to resign if more scandals exposedPalestine Info, 11/2/2010). The possible involvement of Dahlan in the Dubaïgate will thus add more fuel to the flames.

Ultimately, is it « one time too much » for the Mossad or skillfully led a coup? Israel will probably have to apologize to its European partners. But playing the strategy of « divide and rule”, the Mossad has ultimately succeeded to together kill a senior Hamas leader and deal a blow to already weakened Fatah. Whether Fatah is or not involved in this case, Israel is playing a dangerous game and is perhaps destroying its only partner for negotiation. The current Israeli government seems to finally turn its back on the peace process, leaving the international community perplexed and the Palestinian people in disarray.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée