Melvyn Adam Mildiner, a 31-year-old British citizen who moved to Israel nine years ago, woke up on Monday morning to discover that he was wanted by Interpol for the murder of a high-ranking Hamas agent in Dubai – a country he’d never been to. Mildiner is one of seven Israelis with dual citizenship whose passports were forged by the team that killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his hotel room.
The assassination has all the marks of a Mossad operation, and while the international press politely avoids rushing to judgment, in Israel Mossad’s responsibility is simply taken for granted, or flagrantly celebrated. ‘Unless dramatic evidence is found to definitively prove an Israeli connection,’ the Israeli intelligence analyst Yossi Melman writes with undisguised pride in Haaretz, ‘it is likely that the state of Israel will emerge from this affair unblemished and the Mossad will continue enjoying a reputation of fearless determination and almost unstoppable capabilities.’
Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, hasn’t even bothered to issue an official denial, preferring to uphold what he calls a ‘policy of ambiguity’ on intelligence matters. Mildiner, meanwhile, will have to clear his name – and he certainly won’t be holidaying in Dubai anytime soon. Making ‘aliyah’, it seems, is a risky move, leaving foreign-born Jews vulnerable to identity theft by the very state which claims to provide them with a sanctuary.
The Mossad has a history of ‘borrowing’ the identities of foreign-born Israelis – sometimes without their consent, or even their knowledge. Two of the assailants in the bungled attempt on the life of the Hamas leader Khalid Mishal in Amman in 1997 (ordered by Binyamin Netanyahu and carried out in another friendly Arab country) had passports belonging to Canadians living in Israel; the Canadian government retaliated by recalling its ambassador in Tel Aviv – for all of a week. Of the 11 suspects identified by the police in Dubai, six hold British passports, all of them – according to the Foreign Office – forged.
The question is what Britain intends to do if – as seems likely – the Mossad’s responsibility is established. David Miliband, denouncing the passport forgery as an ‘outrage’, has vowed that the British government is not merely ‘going through the motions’ in demanding Israel’s full co-operation with the investigation in Dubai. And there has been much fanfare about the diplomacy in London: the Foreign Office called in the Israeli Ambassador, Ron Prosor, for a 20-minute chat today, and has arranged a meeting in Brussels next week between Miliband and Lieberman. Not much is likely to come of these public reproaches, since going through the motions is precisely what they seem to be about.
This isn’t the first time Israel has forged British passports: in 1987, it admitted that Mossad assassins in Germany had passed themselves off as Englishmen. The Israeli authorities apologised to the British government, promising they would never do it again – unless, it now seems, they needed to.