Hundreds of Israeli assassinations: including Hamas’s Sheikh Ahmed Yassim and the PLO’s Yasser Arafat

Champion assassinator

Moshé Machover focused on the Israeli aspect in his address to the Hopi meeting.

Someone in the Weekly Worker recently commented that on the face of it what the United States is doing is a confirmation of the theory that the Israeli tail is wagging the American dog. However, if you look into things a little deeper, you will see that it is exactly the opposite - the American dog is acting for its own reasons, which often coincide with the wishes of its Israeli junior partner.

It is true that there has been some Israeli involvement in the latest crisis - if you look at the details of the procedure that led to the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, there was some such involvement, but it did not amount to very much. Whenever the Israeli press wants to reveal something on security-related matters, they always quote “foreign sources”. So, according to those “foreign sources”, it seems that Israel was the only country that was informed of the assassination in advance. That was because the Americans needed Israeli confirmation for their own intelligence.

Israel did not supply the original intelligence about Soleimani’s movements - the US knew that he had been on a flight from Damascus to Baghdad (the drone struck his vehicle as it was leaving the airport), but it had asked for Israeli confirmation of this - Israel had been independently tracking him, along with many other individuals. By the way, Israel and the Philippines are the only countries, I believe, where the assassination was welcomed.

I have my own view on the possibility of an arrangement of some sorts between the United States and Iran. Of course, it would depend on many contingencies, but, as the nuclear deal struck by Barack Obama proved, there are circumstances where it is possible for these two states to come to an agreement. In my opinion, Israeli hostility to Iran is more far-reaching than that of the USA. It would be acceptable for the Americans under certain circumstances to strike such an agreement - provided Iran behaved like an obedient client state. That would involve giving Iran some kind of respect as a major power in the Middle East. But Israel would oppose to such an arrangement, because Iran is regarded as an obstacle to its own regional hegemony.

It is worth bearing in mind Israeli intentions and how Israel might need a war with Iran, and the implications of this for other regional actors, including Jordan and Saudi Arabia.


But first I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the style of this assassination was very Israeli, in the sense that Israel is by far the champion assassinator. Wikipedia provides much information about the way Israel has targeted literally hundreds of individuals - it actually provides a list of Israeli assassinations. But even its list is incomplete - it does not mention the most important example: that of Yasser Arafat in 2004, where the circumstantial evidence is so clear, in my opinion.

Most of these acts, as with Soleimani, were described as ‘preventive’, but in most cases that just does not make sense. What type of operation did his killing prevent? He was not actually going to perform such an operation personally. If, as a commander, he had worked out plans to commit some hostile action, how would his killing prevent it?

In some cases Israeli assassinations actually provoked acts they were supposed to prevent. The most outstanding and obvious case was the 1995 killing of Yahya Ayyash, one of the Hamas technicians who constructed bombs. An Israeli agent gave him a cellphone which contained an explosive device and, when he answered a call, his head was blown off. As an act of direct revenge for this, several suicide bombings were committed with more Israeli casualties than those he had been responsible for previously.

In several other cases it was clear that Israeli assassinations were a matter of revenge. For example, Operation Wrath of God - the Mossad operation directed at the Black September organisation responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. That included the killing of an innocent man in Norway - he was mistaken for a member of Black September. Many such assassinations resulted in the death of bystanders - as was the case in the killing of Soleimani.

In 1978 Wadi’e Haddad, who, it was claimed, was responsible for the Entebbe hijacking, was killed by poisoning his toothpaste - one of many bizarre methods employed by Mossad. Then there was Salah Shehade, the Hamas leader killed by a one-ton bomb dropped on his house, resulting in the deaths of his whole family and several neighbours. The list goes on and on. There was also Khaled Mash’al, a Hamas leader who was shot using a poisoned dart in Amman in 1997. But bystanders managed to capture his would-be assassins and the king of Jordan demanded an antidote in return for their release. Israel complied and Mash’al survived.

In fact Israeli assassinations go back to the 1950s and 60s - against nuclear scientists working in Egypt, for instance, and more recently against those working in the nuclear industry in Iran. I think it was clear that Iran was not actually planning to construct nuclear weapons, but was hoping to achieve ‘nuclear bomb readiness’, as it was called, and Israel used various methods, including cyber attacks, as well as assassinations of nuclear scientists.

Schemes for war

I want to use this opportunity to make a prediction about what Israel is likely to do in case of war in the Middle East. I have stated previously that Israel has an interest in disabling Iran as a rival. But it is also the case that Israel needs a war - most likely against Iran - in order to implement its expansionist intentions in Palestinian territory. It is clear that Israel is preparing to annex large parts of the West Bank in the foreseeable future.

Israel has not wanted to take over densely populated areas - it is interested in territory, but not where there are so many inhabitants. The small and highly populated Gaza Strip is therefore not very appealing - I do not believe there are any plans to annex it in the near future. The policy for Gaza is a long-term one, aimed at making it uninhabitable, and to create a situation where the Palestinians will eventually leave themselves.

There is, however, increasing pressure within the Israeli ruling rightwing coalition to annex sizable parts of the West Bank. But the problem is what to do with the population. Israel wants to avoid what it regards as the ‘demographic danger’: that is, the outnumbering of Israeli Jews by Palestinian Arabs or even a situation where the latter population is almost equal to that of Jewish Israelis. The contingency plan originally attributed to Ariel Sharon was to expel a sizable number of Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan.1

The idea is eventually to declare Jordan as the new Palestinian state. As prime minister Yitzhak Shamir’s spokesman put it, “If the Palestinians speak of a Palestinian state, it should be established east of the river, where they already constitute a majority.” A Palestinian state is fine, in other words, as long as it is in what they insist is the ‘other part’ of Palestine - nowadays called Jordan.2

The problem with this is that in order to achieve it two things are necessary: first of all, conflagration in the Middle East, which produces unrest in the West Bank, to be followed by major ethnic cleansing. This scheme was, by the way, reported in the western press in 2002, when it was clear that the USA was going to invade Iraq. The point was that this could produce a situation where a smokescreen for major ethnic cleansing would arise. But it did not come to pass, because the Iraq war ended too quickly. Yes, it continued for a long time inside Iraq, but this was no longer a major regional question. So now Iran is the most likely target in such a conflict.

Secondly, it would require the destabilisation of Jordan and the removal of the monarch.3 Strangely enough, we have recently seen the worsening of relations between Israel and Jordan.4 Suddenly there is a feeling that something is not right and the Israeli governing coalition wants an end to peace with Jordan. Why would that be? It is connected with Israel’s widely reported alliance with Saudi Arabia.


Since the 1920s, the ruling dynasties of Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been traditional enemies. The Hashemites were the custodians of Mecca and Medina until 1925, when the Hejaz part of the Arabian peninsula was conquered by Abdulaziz ibn Sa’ud, the founder of the Saudi monarchy. After that the Hashemites were no longer the custodians of these two shrines, but they remained custodians of the third holy place of Islam, which is the holy mountain, Temple Mount of Jerusalem - the Haram al-Sharif. Jordan is still formally a custodian of this site: it appoints the clerics and religious management - in agreement with Israel.

In order to implement ethnic cleansing, Israel would need some support in the Arab world - otherwise it would be unacceptable. And Saudi Arabia is Israel’s new ally - there is a good deal of reporting of this in the Israeli press. The plan is at some point to overthrow the Jordanian Hashemite monarchy with the support of Saudi Arabia, and then ethnically cleanse a large number of Palestinians from the West Bank - and, as a prize, to finally give to Riyadh custodianship of Islam’s third holiest place.

If you feel that all this is some kind of fantasy, let me point out that it is actually being planned by the current relatively sane Israeli rightwing governing coalition. The lunatic fringe wants to go further, and blow up the Muslim shrine on the holy mountain and put in its place the third Jewish temple. This may or may not happen - there was an attempt during the late 1970s/early 1980s, but it was prevented by the Israeli security service. But now that fringe is much closer to power. They are the real fanatics, but the more mainstream right also wants to change the ownership of the holy mountain, as I have outlined.

Whether this is going to happen next week, next year or some time later, I do not think you can dismiss these plans as fantasy. There is solid evidence that something along these lines is being planned.

  1. See M van Creveld, ‘Sharon’s plan is to drive Palestinians across the Jordan’ The Sunday Telegraph April 28 2002: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/1392485/Sharons-plan-is-to-drive-Palestinians-across-the-Jordan.html.↩︎

  2. Quoted by D Pipes and A Garfinkle, ‘President Arafat? [and the Jordan-is-Palestine issue]’ Middle East Forum fall 1990: www.danielpipes.org/202/president-arafat-and-the-jordan-is-palestine-issue.↩︎

  3. See R Alpher, ‘The Israeli right’s “plan” for Jordan’s King Abdullah: the Israeli right has no solution for civil rights for Palestinians after annexation, except for overthrowing Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy’ Ha’aretz January 12 2020: www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-right-plan-jordan-king-abdullah-palestinians-annexation-1.8381895.↩︎

  4. See A Tibon, ‘Relations between Israel and Jordan at an all-time low, King Abdullah says’ Ha’aretz November 23 2019: www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/relations-between-israel-and-jordan-worse-than-ever-king-abdullah-says-1.8164889.↩︎