Forget about an eye for an eye: That leads to reciprocal blindness, and it’s always better to blind the enemy first when possible, as this excellent account shows.
Striking first before the enemy does has been the prevailing logic of Israel’s Shin Bet, or state security agency, and its predecessors since the first days of Zionism. As Israeli journalist Bergman (The Secret War with Iran: The 30-Year Clandestine Struggle Against the World's Most Dangerous Terrorist Power, 2008, etc.) writes toward the end of this long but event-filled book, the portrait in Steven Spielberg’s movie Munich isn’t quite right: “The connection between the movie…and reality is very slim.” Still, the notion of identifying Israel’s enemies and then dispatching them is a time-honored one. Lately, writes the author, it has been adapted by the United States, which has also borrowed assassination-helpful technologies such as drone strikes from its ally. It is somewhat ironic that toward the end of his life, former intelligence director Meir Dagan, who enjoyed “enormous adulation…as the ultimate Israeli master spy,” called for a political, two-state solution to the long-standing enmity between his country and Palestine. The irony hinges on the fact that so many of Dagan and company’s targets were Palestinian, including, Bergman suggests without ironclad evidence, Yasser Arafat. It may well have been that Ariel Sharon “ordered Arafat’s liquidation,” and if things have become a little less hectic since Arafat’s death, the unintended consequence of the killing of Sheikh Yassin, another foe of Israel, was to give Iran an open door to establishing power in the region, since Yassin was an outspoken opponent of the Iranian regime and its aims. While recognizing the efficacy of political assassination, Bergman is also sharply critical of its use, which is rife with those unintended consequences and often involves the killing of civilians—leading, in turn, to the deaths of civilian Israelis.
A significant contribution to our understanding of Middle Eastern politics and its far-reaching effects.