Israeli Mossad report on Amman Fiasco: background
Israel-Jordan, Politics, 2/16/1998
Should the necessity arise in the future, the Mossad has the legitimate right to operate in Jordan and combat Hamas because it is inconceivable to suggest that Israel refrain from acting against Hamas in other countries, including Jordan. This rule was reiterated in the report issued by the special committee Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu created to investigate the ill-fated assassination attempt of Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mishal in Amman last September.
From the start, the committee had no mandate to recommend the trial of any of the people involved in the fiasco, and its findings were long ago expected to match the wishes of Netanyahu. The report, which weighs in at some 100 pages, most of which are classified, praised Netanyahu despite the fact that he is directly in charge of all Mossad operations and though Mossad's head reports directly and only to him. It claimed that the discussions Netanyahu held prior to the operation were the most comprehensive ever conducted by a prime minister with regard to covert Mossad operations abroad.
It is not clear yet how Jordan will react to the findings and conclusions of the Ciechanover Committee report. The assassination attempt had angered King Hussein of Jordan. According to senior sources, King Hussein harshly reprimanded Mossad head Dany Yatom who was dispatched to Amman to cool his anger. "First you should bring the antidote to save the life of Khaled Mishal and then we'll talk," the king told Yatom who immediately called his office back in Israel and asked for the antidote to be flown to Amman.
Mossad agents injected Khaled Mishal with poisonous chemicals on September 26 last year and only the antidote supplied by Israel had saved his life. The other demand the King resolutely made was that Israel should release without any preconditions the spiritual leader of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who until then had been jailed in Israel, was released, flown to Amman for medical treatment and a few days later was flown back to Gaza where he has been living since then in what was seen by observers, Palestinians and foreigners alike, as a move that strengthened Hamas in Palestine and in the Israeli-occupied territories.
The committee decided operating on Jordanian soil was legitimate and as such is at odds with the political opponents of the Israeli government who said that the operation was a big political mistake since it almost blew up Israel's warm relations with the only Arab country that still has somehow a warm peace with the Israel. The committee concluded that it was legitimate to operate in Jordan saying it is inconceivable for Israel not to strike at a Hamas command even if it operates in a country like Jordan. The committee even went further to suggest that in the future, there is no reason why the Mossad should not operate in Jordan.
Though the report in itself has not been published and only segments of it are due to be disclosed Monday, what has leaked out so far shows the political storm that followed the attempt on Khaled Mishal's life in Amman has not changed any of the basic objectives of the Israeli Mossad, and that is to function, in times of crisis, as a hit team for whom political assassination is the major means for promoting its ideas and achieving its goals.
The fiasco in Amman caused a major embarrassment to Israel. Criticism poured on Israel both from inside and the outside as the political left-wing opposition demanded that both Netanyahu, who is directly responsible for all Mossad actions, quit his job, as well as the Mossad chief Dany Yatom. Neither of the two accepted the criticism and Netanyahu decided to appoint a committee, which from the beginning had failed to gain respect or trust of many in Israel.
Political opponents of Netanyahu said he chose the members of the committee out of a certain criteria knowing that they would not blame him personally for the fiasco. The findings of the committee proved that past reservations were right. Netanyahu today came out clean and even praised for being the first Israeli prime minister "who gave the most comprehensive discussion of the Mossad operation in advance." The committee reached the conclusion that the discussions held by Netanyahu prior to the decision to assassinate Mishal were actually more comprehensive than ones undertaken in the past. It also concluded that other intelligence community officers knew of the plan to assassinate Mishal but supported neither the timing nor the venue of the operation.
After the failed assassination attempt, top Israeli security officers, including defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai, chief of staff Amnon Shahak and General Security Services head Ami Ayalon said they were not consulted on the attack and claimed they had been kept in the dark throughout the whole period that preceded the attack on Mishal. Usually in past similar cases, the Mossad had to consult all other branches of Israel's security in order to prepare the ground for possible outburst of violent reactions to the attack. The Mossad did so in almost every assassination it conducted in the past, whether against PLO officials worldwide or even against international figures who were believed to be involved in Arab efforts to obtain non-conventional weapons.
On the operational level, the army and the Shin Bet, Hebrew acronym for the General Security Services in Israel, complained after the assassination attempt on Mishal that they were kept in the dark and eventually could have failed to contain an explosive situation in the Palestinian areas as well as in the Occupied Territories had the assassins managed to achieve the goal and terminat their target. Politically, opposition parties and groups in Israel said Netanyahu has driven his government to such an embarrassing situation in which it had to take the decision to release Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, whose release was demanded on a number of occasions from the previous Labor government but was not granted.
The committee report contains at least seven chapters which detail the Mossad operation and the minutes of the committee's meetings. It failed to recommend the ousting of Mossad head Dany Yatom or any of the senior officers in the organization. Two of the committee members left the question of Yatom's future in the Mossad in the hands of Netanyahu. The third, former police commissioner Rafi Peled said Yatom should go home immediately. The head of Mossad operations branch who was blamed by the report had already submitted his resignation shortly after the failed attack and therefore there was no point in demanding his resignation.
The committee ratified past recommendations to Netanyahu to appoint a special advisor on intelligence in order to coordinate contacts with Israel's various branches of security and intelligence. One name that is strongly expected to occupy this post, should Netanyahu agree to follow the recommendations, is former general Uri Saguy. Saguy and Netanyahu had reportedly met two weeks ago and there is room to suggest that Netanyahu offered the position to the former general.
The report found that the plan to assassinate Mishal was imperfect from the beginning, and said that possible difficulties were not discussed in advance. The plan was prepared negligently. No alternatives were prepared in case the plan were to fail. Escape routes for the assassins were not mapped out, and they were not briefed about ways to act should their mission fail or if they get detected or arrested by the Jordanian authorities. The committee suggested that a number of structural reforms be introduced to the Mossad but no details were given. All of those reforms remain part of the classified report which seems to have very little chances to be published, if at all.
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