Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Israel Thinks About Killing OBL

Israelis see clear parallels between the US killing of Osama Bin Laden, and the Israeli killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, on March 22, 2004. At the time, there was controversy surrounding the strike on Yassin, which was seen by some on the left as hurting security more than helping it. Israelis are frustrated by what they understand as a double standard under which American targeting of terrorist leaders is legitimate, but Israeli targeting of similar terrorist leaders is not.

While certainly no Israelis are sad to see Osama Bin Laden dead, there is also concern that al-Qaeda will retaliate against Israeli and Jewish targets for the US strike. A small debate persists in Israel as to whether or not the benefit of taking out a figurehead of al-Qaeda is worth the security risk to the Jewish state.

Others are looking to the future of the Israeli policy of targeted assassination, wondering whether the norms have shifted in the wake of the US strike. The question is a good one whose answer may only become clear through trial and error on the part of the Israeli government.

Finally, in remarks on the Palestinian unity agreement today, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu referred to Hamas as the "Palestinian version of al-Qaeda" in a clear attempt to equate the two organizations. The fact that the head of Hamas' administration in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, "condemned the assassination" of Bin Laden on Monday lends considerable support to Netanyahu's rhetoric. Netanyahu's comments are a masterful attempt to frame American perceptions of Israel's role in the peace process prior to his visit to Washington DC in two weeks. No doubt they will reprise their role in his speech to Congress, and to AIPAC.

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