5 Mysteries About Mossad

Some say a million people work for Israeli intelligence. Is that even possible?

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More than a month after the killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel, speculation continues to swirl around Israeli intelligence. Der Spiegel and other publications have offered careful analyses of the thriller-like operation, and how Mossad--Israel's renowned agency--allegedly could have left such a trail. Many details are still obscure, as Mossad remains one of the most mysterious and romanticized intelligence services in the world. Here are some of the questions raised in the last week.

  • Is Mossad Beginning to Falter? The Economist comments on the unpopularity of the assassination, the surprise of Dubai's decent surveillance tapes, and rumblings in the Israeli intelligence community about wanting a younger man at the head of the organization. Moshe Feiglin at Manhigut Yehudit thinks the Dubai debacle shows Mossad doesn't realize how the world has changed: "Israel can no longer expect the international community to wink its eye and look the other way."
  • But Has the Assassination, Bizarrely, Helped? Commentary's Noah Pollak marvels at the spike in sales of Mossad-themed T-shirts since the assassination.
  • How Many Jews Work for Mossad? British journalist Douglas Murray and The New Republic's Marty Peretz pick up on a BBC interview with Gordon Thomas, writer of a book on Mossad. He estimated that between 0.5 and 1 million Jews work for Mossad or are "on call," potentially to help with assassinations. Douglas Murray is horrified, calling the idea both "ridiculous" and "dangerous." Marty Peretz takes a different approach: "I want to state openly that I am open to an approach by the Mossad, and I very much resent the fact that it has chosen 999,973 other Jews instead of me."
  • Iran? Really? At The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg's eye is caught by a Dubai authorities' claim that the suspects fled to Iran. "Don't get me wrong," says Goldberg. "This sounds like a Mossad operation. But going from a semi-dangerous place to a very dangerous place? That is either stupid, or exceedingly clever."
  • Does Any of This Make Any Sense? asks Yossi Melman at Haaretz.
Twenty-six agents, perhaps even 30, sent to assassinate one person? ... It is hard to believe that, if the Mossad intelligence agency carried out the operation, the planners were so irresponsible ... Either the new revelations are another salvo in Dubai's psychological warfare or the police investigators are groping in the dark. It is doubtful we will ever know the truth. The evidence linking Israel to the affair is still weak, certainly for courtroom purposes but also in the diplomatic sphere. But the saga also sends a message of deterrence to Hamas that the long arm of whoever carried out the operation can hit another senior Hamas official.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.