Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, speaking on Saturday, suggested that Israel will not face a diplomatic crisis with Europe over the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai "because there is nothing linking Israel to the assassination."
"Britain, France and Germany are countries with shared interests with Israel in countering terrorism," Ayalon said.
Not so fast. The latest information indicates that a diplomatic crisis is near unavoidable.
Israel is now directly implicated in the killing as British diplomatic sources have been told that Israeli immigration officials at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv secretly copied the British passports which were then used by the Mossad assassins.
But if stealing the identities was not enough, Dubai police now say that some of the killers were carrying diplomatic passports.
Israel has questions to answer and the dismissive responses it has given so far will not satisfy European governments that are fast running out of patience.
Meanwhile, Victor Ostrovsky, a former colonel in Mossad, advised the Israeli residents whose identities were stolen that their lives are at risk.
"They’re safe so to speak, until somebody kills them. I would tell them: do not travel outside the country for at least two years, under any circumstances," he said.
In the Daily Telegraph, Alasdair Palmer notes that judging by the international reaction to the killing of al-Mabhouh, forging passports is much worse than murder. He, like most humane observers, begs to differ:
This apparent international consensus that assassination is a legitimate tool of foreign policy is a very sinister development. State-sponsored murder is still murder. And murder is still a worse offence than using forged passports.
As for President Obama, he is presumably monitoring the situation. Having determined that Hellfire missiles circumvent a host of intractable legal issues, the world’s only other enthusiastic proponent of so-called targeted killing is unlikely to condemn the latest episode in Mossad’s ongoing killing spree.