x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Questions for Israel that it cannot avoid

The murder of Mahmoud al Mabhouh has yet to be conclusively tied to Israel but the evidence of its guilt is swiftly building. Israel cannot continue to stay silent on the issue; questions must be answered.

Israel has some explaining to do, but not the sort that the country's foreign ministry is contemplating. It thinks that Israel's increasingly negative image can be countered with better public relations, that negative stereotypes of Israelis can be reversed by having more people tell Israel's side of the story. But sometimes public diplomacy falls short. The murder of Mahmoud al Mabhouh has yet to be conclusively tied to Israel but the evidence of its guilt is swiftly building. Israel cannot continue to stay silent on the issue; questions must be answered.

A few decades ago Israel swore that Mossad would never again use British passports after being caught stealing them. It appears that Israel's word means little. Six British passports were used in the operation. Most damningly is the revelation that at least three of these fraudulent passports were created using the identities of Israeli citizens. Not only would this be in contravention of Israel's own laws, but also an affront to even the most basic duty of a state to its citizens. Given Israel's history of broken promises and disregard for the rule of law, this revelation would not be as surprising as it ought to be.

The country, or at least the current administration, seems incapable of learning from its mistakes. It was during Benjamin Netanyahu's last term in office that Mossad attempted to poison the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Jordan. Israel was not only forced to hand over an antidote, but it was forced to release the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. It suffered diplomatic humiliation when Canada briefly ended diplomatic relations after it was revealed that Mossad agents used Canadian passports. And, rather than eliminating Mr Meshaal, it turned him into a hero for many.

It is past time that Israel abandoned its blind determination to kill its enemies. Surely it must be obvious that the political cost outweighs any potential benefit. Unfortunately, it is not. Israel appears to be so single-minded in its purpose that it ignores the self-destructive nature of its behaviour. The UAE will be first in line among the countries seeking answers. It was not too long ago that the US came seeking the region's support in a grand bargain on the Middle East peace process. At the time, the region declined. Israel could not be trusted without some concrete demonstration of good faith. Those suspicions seemed even more warranted after a visitor to the country was brutally murdered last month.

The evidence is mounting. Israel has many questions to answer, and the longer it stays silent, the more damaging it becomes. No public relations campaign can change this fact.