Media failed in Dubai hit, not Mossad
Regardless of who assassinated Mabhouh, it showed that Hamas is vulnerable.
An utter lack of proportion. That's the way to describe the competition raging amongst Israeli media outlets over the call to fire Mossad chief Meir Dagan after last month's assassination of Hamas strongman Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. And all this, despite the fact that no one (aside from Hamas) is claiming that Mossad was behind the hit. It seems that Israeli commentators never bothered for one moment to thoroughly review the operation's outcome.
Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was one of Hamas' key men, a central cog in the weapon's smuggling trail leading from Iran to Gaza, if not in the entire machine itself. The assassination represents a mortal blow to Hamas and its image, a fact which may explain the panic visible within the organization in recent weeks. At a rally in Gaza on Wednesday, organizers showed a videotaped speech by the head of Hamas' political wing, Khaled Meshal, who could become the next target. While Meshal boasted that "the time for talk is over, and the time for action has come," he understands that if the assassins were able to get to al-Mabhouh, they can also get to him.
This panic could provide an answer to Israelis' questions about whether the assassination was a success or a woeful failure. The bottom line is that the hit, regardless of which organization was responsible for it, proved that the Hamas leadership was transparent and could be infiltrated and hurt by international intelligence agencies.
Efforts by the organization and al- Mabhouh himself to keep his identity secret failed. The foremost impetus for the assassination, as far as the country responsible for it is concerned, was to hurt the Gaza arms smuggling ring. When he was killed, Mabhouh was en route to Sudan - where, according to foreign reports, Israel once bombed an arms convoy headed for Gaza.
Now, before Hamas can resume its smuggling, it must find out where and how some intelligence agency penetrated its smuggling network and whether this network can be rehabilitated now that it has been exposed. Moreover, the operation serves as a deterrent which possible effects in the diplomatic arena. Israel (probably) is sending Hamas a clear message that the setback in completing a prisoner exchange deal that would see the release of Gilad Shalit will cost the organization the lives of its top men. In addition, the killing has a deterrent effect - Hamas' boasts of its military prowess will now be taken with a grain of salt by the people in Gaza.
Therefore it's hard to call this operation a failure. The operational goal was achieved. The assassins came home safely (aside from two Palestinians who evidently helped them). Yes, they were photographed, but they knew that this was a possibility. And there is no guarantee that those photographs actually show their real faces.
The real snafu was the use of forged European passports bearing the names of real Israeli dual citizens. But it's hard to imagine any other method by which foreign agents could enter and operate in hostile territory. The risks are well known: If the agents are caught, there will be tension with the country whose passports were used. But since these agents were not caught, there is as yet no smoking gun.
If the two Palestinians now under arrest in Dubai opt to "confess" to their ties with Israel, that could provide a smoking gun. But even then, the consequences are unlikely to be dramatic. Britain and Ireland will issue protests, but the incident is unlikely to generate a real, long-term crisis. Except, perhaps, in the media.