gordon brown 311.
(photo credit: AP)
With the exception of The Times,
most of Britain's broadsheet newspapers led on Thursday with the
ongoing passport saga. All had editorials that called for Israel to
cooperate with the investigation but mainly questioned the British
government's response to the fraudulent use of British passports.
In its lead article, The Daily Telegraph
maintained that Britain would consider severing its
intelligence-sharing agreement with Israel if Mossad agents were proved
to have stolen the identities of British passport-holders.
In its editorial, the Telegraph
said the British government deserved better than the unsatisfactory
response it received from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on the
issue, in light of the close relationship the countries maintained and
the intelligence-sharing between them.
"But Britain is an ally that enjoys a close, intelligence-sharing
relationship with Mossad on a number of important global security
issues, such as Iran's nuclear program. It is for this reason that the
Israeli authorities owe Britain an explanation, at the very least, as
to how six of the assassins came to be using the identities of our
citizens who are currently resident in Israel."
Although the Telegraph
editorial did not shy away from showing Mabhouh as a murderous
criminal, it still called for Israel to cooperate fully with the
"Lieberman suggested that another country carried out the killing and
made it look as though Israel was the culprit. Mr. al-Mabhouh,
moreover, was certainly no saint, and had taken refuge in Syria after
being involved in the murder of two Israeli soldiers in 1989. But that
must not detract from the fact that the safety of British citizens in
the region has been compromised. Any suggestion that Israeli
intelligence agents may have betrayed the bond of trust that exists
between our countries to pursue their own agenda could also jeopardize
future intelligence-sharing operations. To prevent a damaging rift from
developing, Israel should offer its full cooperation with the
investigation [Prime Minister] Gordon Brown has ordered into this
In its editorial, The Guardian
said the Serious Organized Crime Agency should present its findings to
the Israeli government and demand an explanation. If Israel did not
cooperate, the newspaper said, stronger action should be implemented.
"Mossad agents routinely use false identities and forged Western
passports, and each time they are caught doing it, Israel gives
assurances they will not do it again," it said.The Guardian
said these assurances "are evidently worthless" and lists measures at Britain's disposal to come down hard on Israel.
"The only thing that will give Mossad pause for thought the next time
it eyes a target for assassination is if its political masters are made
to feel the consequences of its actions," the editorial maintained.
"There are at any given moment a plethora of tools at the disposal of
Britain and the EU, from bilateral diplomatic contacts and military
contacts to arms and trade agreements. London is a key diplomatic
listening post for the Middle East and Britain is a vital interlocutor
with the Palestinians.
"There are any number of ways of getting the message across, not least
the question of whether to change the law to make it harder for British
courts to issue arrest warrants, under the principle of universal
jurisdiction, for former Israeli ministers accused of war crimes. The
enduring mystery is why Britain has been so reluctant to pull the
levers at its disposal."
The editorial also maintained that assassinations rarely achieved their
advertised effect: "If the purpose here was to stop Hamas acquiring
arms from Iran in Dubai, it will not prevent Teheran from providing
weapons through another channel, and the Hamas commander will be
quickly replaced. Assassinations such as these might, however, give
Arab states even less reason than they already have to normalize
relations with Israel. Is that a tactical success or a strategic
's editorial also criticized the British government's passive response.
"Well, the Prime Minister called for a 'full investigation' into how
pseudo-British passports were allegedly used by Mr Mabhouh's killers -
which sounded all very civilized and not terribly urgent. And had the
Foreign Office made any representations to Israel? No it had not. Nor,
it initially said, were there plans to do so - though the ambassador is
now being called in today. Even accepting that suspects are innocent
until proved guilty, this looks like extraordinarily supine behavior in
a situation where, in essence, the good name of our country has been
Writing in The Daily Mail
Michael Burleigh believed that Mabhouh's assassination now was "a
pre-emptive cull" aimed at a terrorist organization that could assist
Iran if Israel attacked it.
"Many Middle Eastern intelligence experts believe Israel is conducting
a 'pre-emptive' cull of leaders of Arab terrorist organizations who
would be prepared to help Iran retaliate in the event of any Israeli
assault on Teheran's nuclear bomb program. And there is no doubt that
the Israelis believe assassination works - that selective 'hits' can
and do degrade the operational efficiency of terrorist organizations,"