Last month, the Iranian Speaker of the Parliament, Ali Larijani, called the assassination an Darioush Rezaie, an Iranian nuclear scientist an "American-Zionist act of terror." Rezaie was gunned down outside his Tehran home by a motorcyle-borne gunman. He was the fourth nuclear scientist in Iran to meet an untimely demise.
Of course, conspiracy theories by Israel’s enemies, often outlandish, are nothing new. There was the vulture that Saudi officials believed to be a Mossad agent, and the sharks off the coast of Egypt believed by some Israel-hating government officials there to be maneating sabotage. Israel is widely believed to be behind the Stuxnet computer virus that set back Iran’s nuclear program, and the Jewish state hasn’t denied that one.
Israel has had a pretty tall reputation to maintain after some triumphs like the capture of Adolf Eichmann, the raid at Entebbe and the Gideon operation to avenge the murdered Munich athletes. But given the challenges it faces, the country needs an edge in that most valuable of resources, human intelligence and the daring and skill to act on it.
It’s hard to reconcile that reputation, though, with some recent fails, like the bumbling assassination attempt in Dubai. And it’s especially hard to believe that a country with that kind of reach and power hasn’t been able to rescue Gilad Shalit in Gaza for more than five years since he was captured by Hamas, even during the 10 months of his captivity that Israel completely controlled Gaza.
I’m not suggesting that Israel is unwilling to try to rescue Gilad, or that Prime Minister Netanyahu and/or the top military officials wouldn’t authorize a mission to retrieve him if the right opportunity presented itself. Most likely, they have a good idea where he is, if not the exact location, but don’t believe they can extract him without his being killed, God forbid, in the attempt, which was the sad outcome of a 1994 attempt in a similar situation to rescue Nachshon Wachsman, the son of Brooklyn olim.
A successful operation would mean not only finding his location but inserting operatives into that location covertly to minimize the risk to Gilad when the larger force strikes. That’s a far-fetched scenario, but it seems to be the only hope for his liberation since years of negotiating have accomplished nothing. Is it too far-fetched for a country that landed troops in a far-off hostle city and liberated a planeload of hostages, with only one casualty; snatched up a Nazi war criminal in Argentina; beat back three invading armies in six days, destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor and may be staving off a nuclear confrontation with in Iran through covert, untreaceable means? I hope not.
Israel is the land of miracles, so here’s hoping a successful operation to bring Gilad Shalit safely home, soon and in a fashion that discourages future abductions of soldiers or citizens — the likely goal of last week’s Eilat attacks — will be the next one for the history books.