The cost of Israeli recklessness: Six dead in Burgas

When Israel assassinated Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh and five Iranian nuclear scientists, it was picking a fight, and the payback – or part of it – was Wednesday’s bus bombing.  

It says something about Israeli society’s fear of facing hard truths when the only public figure who dares to state the obvious about the Burgas attack is Dr. Uzi Arad, who used to be known as “Dr. Strangelove” before he fell out of grace with Netanyahu over Iran. While everybody else here either doesn’t believe or is afraid to say that Israel’s all-but-confirmed assassinations of five Iranian nuclear scientists and Hezbollah military chief Imad Mughniyeh led directly to Wednesday’s attack, Arad says, Guess what – when you kill Iran or Hezbollah’s people, they’re going to try to kill yours. He told Army Radio:

We’re, to a large extent, the initiators, we hit Imad Mughniyeh, and, mainly, we’re leading a struggle against Iran. We’re not a passive side. And the other side is the defending, deterring, and attacking one. … Iran can’t stay disinterested, and it’s natural that it or its proxies such as Hezbollah will try to commit such attacks and exact a price from Israel.

This is the sort of thing plenty of Israelis know but are reluctant to say aloud for fear of being glared at by the patriots in the room. The proper thing to say is that Iran and Hezbollah are scorpions, killing machines that attack us instinctively and endlessly  just for who we are, regardless of what we do or don’t do. What this means is: 1) Israel bears zero responsibility when its citizens are killed in terror attacks like the one in Burgas, and 2) Israel doesn’t have to think about the effect of its assassinations of Iranians and Hezbollah members because they have no effect – those scorpions are trying to kill us full-time with everything they’ve got, so we have nothing to lose by killing them. We don’t have to think about consequences; we are as innocent and free of responsibility as children.

Well, the U.S. is now confirming what Netanyahu has said from the start – that the suicide bombing which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver was an Iran/Hezbollah job. However, the U.S. is also confirming what Arad said – that it came in retaliation for the killings of the Iranian atomic scientists. The New York Times:

“This was tit for tat,” the official, speaking under condition of anonymity, told the New York Times. Two other officials confirmed that Hezbollah perpetrated the bombing.

Again, it was obvious from the beginning that this was tit for tat. Israeli leaders and the media should not pretend that they’re shocked.

And Israelis should not pretend that this country had nothing to do with what happened in Burgas, that it could have done nothing (except catch the killer before he struck) to prevent those deaths. It could have prevented them – by not killling Mughniyeh and the Iranian scientists. By doing so, it was picking unnecessary fights with Iran and Hezbollah, and the payback – or maybe the first part of it – just cost the lives of six innocent people.

About the Mughniyeh killing, it might have made sense to assassinate him while Israel was at war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, but not in February 2008, after 18 months of peace and quiet on the northern border. Why risk it? I’m surprised things didn’t blow up before this.

About the Iranian scientists’ assassinations, if you believe Iran’s nuclear program makes war inevitable, then killing them is at least practical. If you don’t believe Iran’s nuclear program makes war inevitable – and most everyone except Israelis and Republicans don’t – then sooner or later, killing those scientists provokes reactions that make war more likely and meanwhile get Israelis and others killed.

Given Mughniyeh’s bloody record, it was not immoral to kill him. I think it was immoral to kill the Iranian scientists even if they were working on a nuclear bomb – but if they were involved with the Revolutionary Guard, which has a bloody record of its own, that would definitely mitigate things. At any rate, we’re not talking about harmless innocents.

What we are talking about, though, is reckless endangerment of innocent Israelis and others. And it’s borne of this Israeli idea that 1) our enemies are scorpions, and 2) we have no agency in this conflict (yes, that’s also an Israeli belief), so we’re free to shoot first and ask questions never.

I think more than a few Israelis are asking questions about this policy today. Unfortunately, Netanyahu and Barak are not among them; the only question they’re asking after Burgas is how to turn it into a stepping stone to war.