The reliable Yossi Mellman, writing for Ha’aretz, reports on interviews in which three former Mossad chiefs talked about Israel’s policy–unique in the world–of systematically killing its armed enemies via assassination.
The interviews are unusually candid because the three men–Nahum Admoni, Danny Yatom and Tamir Pardo – were speaking to the journal of the Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center (IHCC) in Tel Aviv, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Mossad’s founding. The IHCC, a museum and think tank, is the public face of Mossad.
Mellman, a veteran intelligence reporter, frames the issue in practical terms.
The question of cost versus benefit – i.e., do assassinations contribute to national security – is one that intelligence chiefs wrestle with. They have no definitive answer. From conversations I’ve had with a good number of top intelligence officials, I’d say they believe that this is a tool whose contribution is quite limited at best. Most also admit that very few assassinations have made a decisive strategic contribution to national security.
Assassination inevitably provoke retaliation. When Israeli agents killed Hezbollah leader Abbas Musawi in 1992, the Shi’ite organization (aided by Iranian intelligence), responded by bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994. As a result of Musawi’s assassination 114 were killed and about 500 wounded.
In retrospect, said one top Israeli official, killing Musawi was a “poor decision.”
Pardo, the chief of Mossad from 2011 to 2016, said “in assessing the question over the years, the strategic value of the method [assassination] appears limited.”
In 2011, the German news website Spiegel Online claimed it had received information from “an Israeli intelligence source,” linking Pardo’s Mossad to the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Darioush Rezaeinejad in Tehran on July 23, 2011.