British paper: Dubai hit may damage UK-Israel ties
Leading UK newspapers filled with reports, commentaries on assassins' alleged use of British passports in killing of al-Mabhouh; The Times says Israel 'has a right to protect itself,' while Daily Telegraph columnist quotes former MI6 officer as saying Mossad has 'twisted ideals, total lack of respect for human life'
The British press has been covering the Dubai affair extensively, particularly after it was reported that some of the assassins behind the recent killing of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai had stolen the identities of British passport holders.
Hamas claims Israel's Mossad intelligence agency was responsible for the hit.
The Times took a relatively moderate stance, saying, "Israel has the right to exist, to flourish and to protect itself from those who threaten its security. That is a point undisputed by the West, by this newspaper and even by a growing number of Arab states.
"In confronting the terrorism perpetrated by Hamas and other hostile bodies, Israel has often had to act with determination and imagination," read an editorial published by the newspaper on Thursday.
The Times mentioned that the targeting of terrorist leaders is not Israel’s policy alone, saying that "in Pakistan the US, with the assistance of British special forces, employs drones to kill al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Washington and London both considered the recent assassination of Hakimullah Mehsud a legitimate step in fighting terrorism."
However, the editorial went on to say that the assassination in Dubai blew Mossad's "famed" cover, adding that the "long-term fallout of agents using forged European passports has the capacity to damage Israel’s relations with Britain and other friends.
Netanyahu caricature in The Independent
"In 1987, Mossad conducted an operation using fake British passports. Britain protested, and Israel gave an undertaking then that it would not embarrass its friends in this way again. But the Dubai operation has now cast a new froideur over relations just at a time when Israel needs Europe’s support to find a way back into peace talks with the Palestinians," the editorial read.
In another article, The Times quotes a former Mossad agent as saying that since Meir Dagan's appointment t as head of the spy agency in 2002, maintaining good relations with other nations was dropped to the bottom of the list.
“Mossad is facing a lot of anger right now over the use of British and European passports. I don’t know if Mossad was actually involved or how they got those passports though I can say that Dagan isn’t the kind of man to care about angering a few people to get the job done,” the former agent told The Times.
The Guardian quoted a British official as saying that, "Relations (with Israel) were in the freezer before this. They are in the deep freeze now," while the Daily Telegraph's security correspondent, Duncan Gardham, chose to compare Mossad with Britain's intelligence agency.
"MI6 plays on its highly educated, clubbable image, to turn and run informants across the world while Mossad has been described by a former officer as having 'twisted ideals and self-centered pragmatism' along with a 'total lack of respect for human life' reflected in its program of targeted assassinations," he wrote.
However, Gardham added that the relationship between MI6 and Mossad has become closer in recent years with the "preoccupation on both sides with nuclear proliferation in Iran".
An editorial published The Independent columnist Robert Fisk pointed an accusatory finger at Britain itself, claiming that Dubai suspects "Europe's 'security collaboration' with Israel has crossed a line into illegality, where British passports (and those of other EU nations) can now be used to send Israeli agents into the Gulf to kill Israel's enemies."
Fisk quoted an "impeccable" source in the Arab emirate as saying that "the British passports are real. They are hologram pictures with the biometric stamp. They are not forged or fake. The names were really there. If you can fake a hologram or biometric stamp, what does this mean?"
On Wednesday Ynet reported that Israel's ambassadors to the United Kingdom and Ireland have been summoned by the countries' foreign ministries to explain the use of fake passports in Dubai. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said it was unaware of such demands.