Israel cannot have believed that it would come to this. Five months after a Mossad hit squad assassinated the Hamas official Mahmoud al Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel room, far from being swept under the carpet, the murder continues to resonate worldwide.
Israeli diplomats have already been expelled from Britain and Australia, and a decision is pending in Ireland. Now, in the most significant development to date, a man is under arrest in Poland, wanted by German authorities on suspicion of supplying a fraudulent passport in the assassination. The Poles are under pressure from Israel not to extradite him to Germany, and to send him to Israel instead.
Israel, firstly, has underestimated the forensic powers of the Dubai police. Within hours of the murder, they were studying CCTV footage from Dubai airport to the scene of the crime. Within hours of that footage being broadcast worldwide, along with the names used by the killers, innocent people in Australia, the UK, Ireland and other European countries were coming forward to say that their identities had been stolen by the assassination squad, and Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the Dubai police chief, pointed the finger firmly at Mossad.
Yesterday, displaying the deft footwork that has characterised this investigation from the beginning, Lt Gen Tamim said he would not seek the extradition of the man being held in Poland unless there is evidence that he had committed a crime in Dubai; in other words, Lt Gen Tamim is making it clear that while the murder was committed in Dubai, its implications, particularly for security, are international.
"This person has committed the crime in Germany, and therefore it is only normal that he will be prosecuted there. For us what is important that he will receive his punishment, irrespective of in which country," Lt Gen Tamim said. It also seems clear that, once Mossad had been implicated in the assassination, Israel assumed that its allies would turn a blind eye to Mossad's behaviour in appropriating the identities of its citizens. Australia, Britain and Ireland have done nothing of the sort. Now, it appears, neither is Germany The arrest of the man using the name "Uri Brodsky" while he was attempting to enter Poland comes as Israel also tries to deflect international condemnation over the killing of nine activists on the Gaza-bound flotilla and threatens to strain its relations with another European ally - one of its closest - Poland. Poland is under pressure from Israel not to extradite the suspect to Germany, but has an obligation to under an extradition treaty, making the Dubai incident a European headache. According to Israeli media reports yesterday, officials are asking for the suspect to be tried in Israel instead. The arrested man is charged with helping to provide a fake passport in the name of Michael Bodenheimer for one of the operatives who participated in the killing. Investigators suspect "Brodsky," who has Israeli citizenship, of helping one of the suspects to apply for the Bodenheimer passport at a registration office in Cologne in early 2009. Ireland has delayed its decision on whether to expel a diplomat over the misuse of eight of its passports with Micheal Martin, the foreign affairs minister, saying he didn't want the decision to be clouded by the flotilla attack, but a decision would be reached in the next fortnight. Relations with the UK and Australia have already been severely shaken after investigations found the countries' passports were misused by Mossad agents. Australia, several of whose passports were forged for use in the assassination, expelled a diplomat in May. In March, the UK government expelled a senior Israeli diplomat over the use of forged British passports in the assassination after an investigation by Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency. Passports from France were also used. The German police spokesman said the arrest, which occurred early this month, stemmed from a German investigation into the illegal obtaining and use of a passport in the name of Michael Bodenheimer - a name police say was used by one of the assassins. "There is a suspicion that [Brodsky] was involved in intelligence activity and that the procurement of the passport was linked to that," the spokesman said. Lt Gen Tamim said the success of the German investigation reflected well on Dubai police work. "The fact that German investigators could develop their own investigations is a clear indication of the strength of the information provided by us and that the pictures and other data collected are accurate," Lt Gen Tamim said. "The cooperation of the different Interpol members is leading the development of investigations. We will continue to cooperate with the different concerned authorities in the case." Mahmoud al Mabhouh, 50, a senior Hamas official, was murdered in his hotel room in Dubai on January 19. The murder was discovered the next day, but all suspects had managed to flee the country within 24 hours of murder. However, Dubai Police were able to identify the suspects using hours of closed-circuit TV footage as evidence of their alleged involvement. A lengthy video presentation to the media, complete with annotation and narration, purported to show the movements of the assassins and their assistants over three days in Dubai in January as they arrived, planned and executed the assassination. Many of the names and faces were released over several weeks after the killing. firstname.lastname@example.org Additional reporting by Wafa Issa