ISRAEL: Miscellaneous Dubai fallout
In the wake of the Dubai assassination controversy, the emirate's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, is keeping a steady hand on the faucet, carefully dripping out information for the media. Israel --widely suspected as being behind the slaying of a senior Hamas operative, but not busted -- is beginning to get a bit wet around the edges, though not drenched.
First, it was British investigators arriving in Israel to have a chat with Britons whose identities were borrowed in connection with the assassination. Next, Australians. Germany is conducting its own probe, and the FBI has been called on to look into the U.S.-issued credit cards used to purchase air tickets and book hotel rooms in connection with the alleged plot.
And in a recent U.N. vote on a resolution calling for further investigation of last year's Gaza offensive and war crime allegations, Australia shifted from supporting Israel's position to abstaining, Germany too; Britain and France (French passports were not abused) shifted from abstention to supporting the resolution. Ireland, whose passports also traveled to Dubai without their owners, voted against Israel.
A separate diplomatic thorn-in-the-side is Israel's first ambassador to Turkmenistan -- not insignificantly, Iran's neighbor. Turkmenistan has been stalling for months over the appointment of Reuven Dinel, a close associate of Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman. It doesn't help that Dinel is a former Mossad man kicked out of Moscow in 1996 after Russian security caught him accepting classified satellite photographs from senior army officers, as Haaretz reported.
Back in Israel, some are calling for a legal framework for the Mossad. Unlike the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, which is subject to oversight legislation passed a few years back, the Mossad is a one-man show, says legal analyst Zeev Segal, who is calling for similar legislation to anchor, as much as possible, various Mossad procedures. Currently, the prime minister alone can appoint the chief of Mossad, extend his term or end it. A special legislative subcommittee for intelligence and secret services receives reports, but primarily after the fact, says Segal -- and the prime minister can instruct the agency as he sees fit.
Dubai might suffer a backlash too. Moshe Elad, a retired Israeli army colonel and national security professor, notes its gargantuan debt. It will need to remain attractive to discreet business travelers and tourists (nearly 4 million last year) who now know that everyone entering Dubai unwittingly stars on "Big Brother." Even Orwell would blush, Elad writes, adding that people shouldn't be surprised if Tamim is fired one of these days.
The loophole through which many Israelis enter Dubai is closing -- for now. Eventually, Dubai will have to decide if business comes before the pleasure of keeping them out, some say. Meanwhile, one Israeli who has entered Dubai before on his second passport is cricket player Stanley Perlman. Only hours after Israelis were disinvited from Dubai, the Israeli Cricket Assn. was notified by the International Cricket Council, based in Dubai, that it was receiving an award for his project of cricket games for Bedouin and Jewish kids. Too bad he won't be visiting anytime soon.
Many people are poring over the pictures of the alleged spies, trying to make out a familiar face. Don't bother, reports Haaretz. The passport pictures were doctored, its probe found. Meanwhile, people have opened various Facebook groups, like "I was also part of the Dubai assassination squad" and "I too donate my passport to Mossad for eliminating terror." This group has 17 members, but it looks like whoever dunnit got enough help without them.
-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem