Israel has become a law unto itself and unless the international community stands up to the rogue state it will continue to use the world as its own backyard in order to plot against and kill its enemies. This was made clear on Sunday when Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ended speculation over the assassination in Tehran of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps colonel by boasting publicly that the "Iranian regime's immunity is over." His own country's ability to act with impunity remains solid, though. Shamefully so.
Until he made his taunt, Bennett, whose office oversees the Mossad intelligence agency, had declined to comment on the assassination of Colonel Hassan Sayad Khodaei earlier this month; he was shot dead at the wheel of his car by two people on a motorbike in the Iranian capital. Tel Aviv had previously accused Khodaei, who served in Unit 840 of the Quds Force, of plotting attacks against its citizens worldwide. While pointing the finger at others, Israel and its supporters ignore the fact that the settler-occupation state has carried out more than two thousand assassination attempts since its bloody creation in ethnically-cleansed Palestine 74 years ago.
Not all of Israel's plots have been successful. I was reminded of this fact as the 25th anniversary of the attempted assassination of Palestinian political leader Khaled Meshaal in Jordan's capital Amman approaches later this year. The audacious attack on the then 41-year-old head of the Hamas Political Bureau ignited a diplomatic row that threatened to wreck the newly-signed peace deal between Jordan and Israel. The crisis ended with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making a number of humiliating concessions.
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Netanyahu is said to have personally selected Meshaal from a kill list of a number of senior Hamas officials. The attempt on Meshaal's life involved a six-member Mossad team using false Canadian passports. The plan was to murder the exiled Hamas leader using a lethal toxin without leaving any trace. In theory, after the toxin had been administered by a spray, Meshaal would go about the rest of his day as normal and then, when tiredness overcame him, he would take a nap, from which he would never wake up.
On the day of the assassination, two of the six agents moved into position to deliver the lethal dose of the fentanyl toxin as Meshaal arrived at his office. The other four Mossad agents were to act as getaway drivers and lookouts. The agents delivered the toxin using an aerosol device pointed at Meshaal's ear, but as they fled from the scene one of his bodyguards gave chase and overpowered the assassins in hand-to-hand combat.
The botched operation was a setback but clearly not a deterrent. Since then Mossad's so-called elite "Caesarea Team" has embarked on many more state-sponsored murders. Most have been successful, but back in January 2010 incredulous details emerged of a 30-strong hit squad operation in Dubai to kill another high-ranking member of Hamas.
Although they succeeded in killing Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, a Hamas leader whose code name within Mossad was "Plasma Screen", a video of their movements was posted online for all the world to watch. The Caesarea Team is trained for global assassinations, sabotage and penetration of high-security installations. Despite its reputation as an elite unit, this was the second attempt to kill Al-Mabhouh. On a previous trip to Dubai two months earlier, in November 2009, the same team tried to poison him by smearing a deadly toxin on the fixtures in his hotel room much in the same way Russian agents used Novichok poisoning to try and assassinate Russian double agent Sergei Scribal and his daughter, Yulia, at their home in Salisbury.
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On Sunday in broadcast remarks to his ministers, Bennett — without a hint of irony — accused Iran of repeatedly targeting Israeli interests. "For decades, the Iranian regime has practiced terrorism against Israel and the region by means of proxies, emissaries, but the head of the octopus, Iran itself, has enjoyed immunity," said Bennett. "As we have said before, the era of the Iranian regime's immunity is over. Those who finance terrorists, those who arm terrorists, and those who send terrorists will pay the full price."
The New York Times reported that Israel had informed the Biden administration that it had killed the colonel as a warning to Tehran to stop the operations of a covert military unit to which the officer belonged.
Rory Cormac, Professor of International Relations at Nottingham University, specialises in secret intelligence and covert operations. He writes in his most recent book that in November 2020 Israel had used a robotic machine gun controlled by satellite and run on artificial intelligence to assassinate Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian military nuclear scientist.
Earlier in the same year, on 3 January, the powerful Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was assassinated when US drones fired Hellfire missiles at his motorcade as he went to meet the Iraqi prime minister in Baghdad. And in a failed assassination a few months later, Alexei Navalny, the Russian political rival to Vladimir Putin, became violently ill on a flight after being poisoned with Novichok. The deadly Russian nerve agent had been applied to his underwear in a hotel room but had failed to fully penetrate his skin as planned.
In his new book out in June, How To Stage A Coup, Cormac devotes a chapter to the history of state-sanctioned killings in which he writes: "Over the years, the Americans have turned to poisoned toothpaste, poison-lined scuba diving suits and, most famously of all, exploding cigars. Meanwhile, the Israelis have launched over two thousand assassination operations. Methods include snipers, car bombs, parcel bombs, explosives hidden in a phone, and poison. They were not always successful."
He concludes: "Once leaders — and it is often political rather than intelligence leaders — agree that a target would die, the question then becomes: how on earth do they expect to get away with it?"
It's an interesting question but one which never concerns Israel, which has truly become a law unto itself. Thanks to the inability and unwillingness of the rest of the international community to act, the rogue state gets away with murder, quite literally, time after time after time.
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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.