20 February 2010

Avigdor Lieberman on the Dubai assassination

From the moment news broke of the assassination of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the public position of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been “there is no proof that [the Israeli intelligence agency] Mossad carried out the killings”.  

These words are carefully chosen. They are not a denial – they are an assertion that there is no proof.

Elsewhere Mr Lieberman has said, consistent with longstanding Israeli practice (and the practice of most countries in relation to the overseas activities of their undercover agents):

Israel never responds, never confirms, never denies.

Mr Lieberman would have been well advised to follow his own dictum, because in fact he has responded, with his statement that there is no proof. Any words other than the stock-standard formula constitute a comment, a response - a confirmation or a denial.  From the outset I took Mr Lieberman’s statement that there is no proof that Mossad carried out the killings as a confirmation, with a more than a hint of triumphalism – “we got him but Mossad is so immensely clever that you will never be able to prove it”.

It was an incautious statement to begin with, and with photos of the supposed Mossad agents splashed all over the world’s newspapers, three governments (the United Kingdom, Ireland and France) having called in the respective Israeli ambassadors to demand explanations of apparent identity theft and forged passports, and the Dubai police chief seeking the service of an Interpol warrant against Mossad chief Meir Dagan, it is becoming a difficult line to sustain.

There might not yet be “proof” of Mossad involvement, but there is a growing mountain of evidence.

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