It was like an especially wild orgy: First the great intoxication of the senses, then the bitter sobering up the next morning. Within a few hours, Israel went from celebrating the assassination of Imad Mughniyah to the fear of what would follow. The "great feat of intelligence," the "perfect execution," the "humiliation of Bashar Assad" were replaced in the blink of an eye with a spate of fear-inducing "travel advisories" by the Counterterrorism Office - don't travel, don't identify yourself, don't congregate, be careful, take every precaution - and with states of high alert on the northern border, and at all of Israel's embassies and consulates, and Jewish community centers worldwide. If these are the dangers that lie in wait for us, one has to ask: What did we need this assassination for?
Whoever killed Mughniyah was once again playing with the most dangerous fire of all: He undermined Israel's security. If it was Israel, one has to ask whether there was any shred of sense in this move. If it was not Israel, our famed intelligence agencies would do well to prove this quickly, before the next disaster. Was the security of Israel's citizens improved? Was terror dealt a permanent blow? History, with its multitude of previous assassinations, teaches that the answer is no. The chain of "terrorist chieftains" liquidated by Israel, from Ali Salameh and Abu Jihad through Abbas Mussawi and Yihyeh Ayash to Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi - all "operations" that we celebrated with great pomp and circumstance for one sweet and intoxicating moment - have thus far brought only harsh and painful revenge attacks against Israel and Jews throughout the world, as well as infinite replacements no less effective than their predecessors, and sometimes more so. From assassination to assassination, terror has only increased and become more sophisticated.
We have never really demanded an accounting from those responsible for these liquidations; we have merely been excited by their "achievements." How we enjoy wallowing in these childish tales of heroism! Yihyeh Ayash was killed via his cell phone? That is fine for an action flick, but our film ended in a wave of suicide bombings that killed more than 100 Israelis. Did anyone ever ask whether it was worth it? And who is the guilty party? We were excited about the cell phone that blew up in "the engineer's" face, but in the end, it blew up in our faces. Now, we have Ehud Barak as defense minister and Meir Dagan as head of the Mossad, both great fans of assassinations and hush-hush James Bond operations. And thus, there is good reason to suspect that this time as well, Israel had a hand in what happened.
First, the partying: It is depressing to see the pseudo-victory celebrations. What, for heaven's sake, is there to celebrate, other than the oldest and most primitive feeling of all - revenge? The parade of generals and pundits who were interviewed in every possible platform, putting their heads together and dispensing cunning smiles, inflated with their own self-importance, along with the generations of terror victims who were called on to express the joy of their personal revenge, and the deciphering of hints - here is Ehud Olmert smiling in the Knesset and Ehud Barak standing tall in Ankara - all of these painted a picture of unparalleled grimness. Even devoted fans of the genre need to think about the morning after. Even for them, vengeance for the sake of vengeance, an eye for an eye, in the best spirit of our biblical values, cannot be the be-all and end-all. Moreover, a society that rejoices and takes pride in its media victory after every assassination is a society in bad shape, while a war on terror that only encourages ever more vicious reprisals is a lost war.
But this time, the celebration was shorter than ever. The execution was indeed perfect, but the questions that should have been asked before the operation cropped up immediately afterward, with appalling belatedness. For instance, the location and timing of the operation: Last summer, not long ago, they stuffed us full of warnings about the explosive situation with Syria. Then, on September 6, came the mysterious bombing in northern Syria, and now the assassination, once again on the territory of that same dangerous country. What interest is served by humiliating Bashar Assad? How long will he continue to restrain himself and simply absorb these humiliations? Does this bring him closer to negotiations with us - something that we, of course, have been stubbornly rejecting - or drive him even further away from us? And regarding the purpose of the assassination: Will it prevent terror attacks, or will it actually increase them? Was Mughniyah one of those rare people who are irreplaceable, or will his replacement be even more dangerous than he was?
Imad Mughniyah has been killed. Wonderful. Whoever liquidated him did "great work," as they say. But the morning after, additional pressing questions arise, beyond how they got on his track and how they fooled him. "The world is a better place" after Mughniyah's assassination, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department declaimed poetically. Better? That is doubtful. But less safe? That is certain.
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