Ha’aretz’s Amir Oren argues that Imad Mughniyah, the Hezbollah leader allegedly killed by Israel, is irreplaceable.
Mughniyah’s assassination has a substantive side but also a psychological one. Both challenge the myth commonly disseminated by those who fear (because they know why) that they will be targeted for assassination. It is the myth that “everyone can be replaced.” This myth aims to keep Israel and other countries from targeting senior figures in terrorist organizations. The theory is that there is no point in taking such action if every assassination only further enrages the masses and stokes their determination to rally to the cause. Moreover, sometimes the successor is more effective and worse for Israel than his predecessor.
In rejecting this line of argument, Oren says that you can ‘t blame Israel’s problems in the Lebanon war of 2006 on its leaders and then “deride the significance of people in key positions.” Besides, he adds, Hezbollah leaders ultimately conduct themselves as if they are irreplaceable, always sending others into dangerous situations, while going into hiding for long periods of time.
As for the recent assassination:
Mughniyah belonged to the blacklist of arch-terrorists whose organizations will find it very difficult to prepare a replacement for them, with the kind of skill, professional knowledge and personal contacts in the shadow world, where trust and experience are acquired through years of work. The bedlam that this creates in an organization hurt in this way, and so suddenly, leads to further intelligence and targets.
The killing also sends an important message to Syria and its proxies regarding Israel’s knowledge and reach when it comes to retaliating against terrorists.
This operation will not deter Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard, but it will be a reminder that others are also not deterred.