Israel Can't Pick and Choose Its Enemies

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Patrick Galey Journalist and writer focused on the Middle East. Reported for five years for a variety of publications from Beirut and Cairo.

As soon as news wires flickered with the first reports of a bomb attack on an Israeli diplomatic convoy in Jordan, we knew who was to blame.

"My assessment is that this was the work of al-Qaeda or Hezbollah," an Israeli official, speaking anonymously, told Reuters. He was reported to have been briefed on Jordanian intelligence.

Thursday's attack was aimed at two cars carrying middling Israeli embassy staff and bodyguards as they traveled the 80km highway between Amman and Jerusalem. No one was hurt in the incident.

The same source added that an investigation into the blast was only just beginning. Is it not therefore remarkable that Israel was able - with such little evidence at its disposal - to effectively accuse, try and convict the culprits even before the wreckage had stopped smoking?

The fact that the botched attack bore none of the hallmarks of Hezbollah or al-Qaeda attacks was not taken into account by Israel.

No one was hurt as the cars rolled towards Allenby Bridge, indicating a poorly planned operation. The targets were hardly of vast strategic importance (in spite of early media reports, the Israeli Ambassador was not part of the convoy). Jordan is not even a known field of operations for Hezbollah.

None of this, of course, matters a jot to Israel. Israel's security council has gone on record saying that any attack on Israeli civilians, anywhere in the world, will be blamed on Hezbollah.

The motivation behind such rhetoric is thinly veiled. Israel maintains that Hezbollah seeks to avenge the assassination of its military commander Imad Moughniyah, who was killed by a Damascus car bomb in 2008.

Israel is probably right in this respect. The Shiite group is likely looking for revenge targets. But, as a Beirut military analyst explained to me, when Hezbollah seeks a retribution scalp, it will be a scalp of "equal strategic value."

If Hezbollah were going to assassinate Israelis, it would be unlikely to target the likes of those attacked on Thursday.

Israel would blame Hezbollah in order to provide the state with suitable justification to resume unfinished business. It is no secret that Tel Aviv still smarts from the 2006 July-August war waged with Hezbollah, where the might of the Israeli Air Force failed to root out the group's partisans. A botched ground invasion added to Lebanese societal and governmental support for Hezbollah -- the exact opposite effect desired by Israel.

Saying Hezbollah has attacked its citizens, irrespective of how plausible such a claim may be, gives Israel the ideal pretext to resume its scuffles with the Shiite group.

The worrying part -- for both Hezbollah and Israel -- is that such a "guilty until proven innocent" approach aimed exclusively at the Shiite group overlooks the likely real culprits of Thursday's attack.

Israel is not short of enemies in the region, especially not in Jordan, with its majority Palestinian population. Jordan is one of the few Arab states to maintain any sort of diplomatic ties with its Jewish neighbor and this does not sit well with many anti-Israel groups, several of whom enjoy widespread support around Amman.

Israel dogmatically blaming Hezbollah for assassination attempts not only allows genuine perpetrators to go unpunished, it also openly invites attacks from other groups whose own anti-Israel agenda doesn't comply with that of the Lebanese resistance.

Israel's fixation with Hezbollah -- and to a lesser extent al Qaeda -- opens it up to aggression from other non-sympathizers. These are not in short supply in this part of the world.

Jordanian authorities have said that no Israelis will be involved in the attack's investigation, meaning Tel Aviv cannot gather evidence contradicting allegations of Hezbollah/al-Qaeda involvement. This will suit Israel just fine. Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?