JERUSALEM (Feb. 16)
A government-appointed committee has cleared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of responsibility for a failed Mossad operation to kill a Hamas leader in Jordan.
The commission said that the prime minister had acted in a “responsible manner, having considered and examined the plans presented to him, from every possible aspect.”
The commission reserved its criticism for Mossad head Danny Yatom, saying that he and the division head in charge of operations were to be faulted for the flaws in conceiving and carrying out the operation.
But it said that it was up to the government to decide whether to dismiss Yatom.
The three-member commission, which was headed by a former Defense Ministry director general, Yosef Chekhanover, submitted to Netanyahu on Monday its report on the attempt to assassinate Khaled Mashaal last September.
Only a small portion of the report was made public, with the rest remaining classified for reasons of security.
Netanyahu, who as prime minister has overall authority over the Mossad’s operations, declined to say whether any action would be taken against Yatom.
“I would first like to read all of the report before making any statement on this matter,” Netanyahu told reporters.
Regarding the impact the operation had on Israeli-Jordanian relations, Netanyahu said, “Israel and Jordan have an understanding on what must be done to fight terrorism.”
The operation, in which two Mossad agents were apprehended by Jordanian authorities after attempting to inject Mashaal with a fatal poison, severely strained Israel’s relations with Jordan, its closest friend in the region.
The agents were freed after Israel agreed to release dozens of Palestinian prisoners, including Hamas co-founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
In its report, the commission did not judge the decision to carry out the operation on Jordanian territory, refusing to question the prevailing principle that no place should be a safe harbor for those who plan to carry out terrorist acts against Israel.
But the commission did propose that the government define where such actions be taken.
The main findings of the report found grave flaws in the planning and implementation of the operation.
The report noted that the operation was planned on the assumption of being a “silent operation” with a minimum chance of failure — but that Mossad planners and their superiors had hardly addressed what would happen in the event of a mishap.
In a minority opinion, former Police Commissioner Rafi Peled said he believed Yatom should be relieved of his duties.
Likud Knesset member Uzi Landau, who is a member of a Knesset subcommittee that also prepared a report on the assassination attempt, agreed with the Chekhanover Committee’s decision not to call for Yatom’s dismissal.
All six members of the Knesset subcommittee also came to the conclusion that Netanyahu should not be held responsible for the failed mission.
But a majority of that committee’s members criticized the decision to carry out the action on Jordanian territory.