Israel Threatens to Murder Palestinian Prime Minister

Israel has threatened to murder Palestine’s Prime Minister unless terrorists release Corporal Shalit.

ISRAEL last night threatened to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh if Hamas militants did not release a captured Israeli soldier unharmed. The unprecedented warning was delivered to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a letter as Israel debated a deal offered by Hamas to free Corporal Gilad Shalit.

It came as Israeli military officials readied a second invasion force for a huge offensive into Gaza. Hamas’s Gaza-based political leaders, including Mr Haniyeh, had already gone into hiding. But last night’s direct threat to kill Mr Haniyeh, a democratically elected head of state, sharply raised the stakes.

This move is stupid beyond words. Not only will it ensure that Israel loses the handful of friends it still has in the international community–I can’t imagine even the United States countenancing this move–but it plays right into the hands of the terrorists. The Hamas renegades who kidnapped Shalit would love for Israel to murder the PM, ensuring that a state of war will be made permanent.

The irony here is that Israel had international sympathy, with even Arab states like Egypt pressuring for Shalit’s release. But this moronic threat will surely change that.

Michael van der Galien disagrees. “Instead of giving in to the blackmail, Israel is now making crystal clear what’s at stake for the Palestinians: they caused this mess, if they want to save themselves they’d better return Shalit now.” But this isn’t a playground; it’s international politics. One doesn’t murder a head of state and launch a war because terrorists have kidnapped a soldier.

Don Sensing believes the move “shows that the Israeli army is running the show. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert is not a strong leader, and the country’s minister of defence isn’t, either.” Nor particularly bright, apparently.

AllahPundit thinks this a political ploy:

It could be that Shalit is already dead and Israel knows it, and they’re putting the letter out to give themselves political cover to target Haniyeh (i.e., he had fair warning). If not, expect them to deny having sent the letter in the morning; confirming it would be tantamount to daring Hamas to kill him, which isn’t the most prudent move when dealing with a wacko jihadist honor/shame culture.

The latter is certainly true. Again, though, the propaganda value to Hamas and the Palestinians of an Israeli murder of an elected head of state would be tremendous.

UPDATE (Greg Tinti): BREAKING: According to witnesses in Gaza City, an Israeli helicopter launched a missile attack on the office of the Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyeh, who was believed not to be in the office at the time.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. oceanguy says:

    Nit-picking…but if there was a second Palestinian State, Abbas would be the Head of State, not Haniyeh.

    Is Hamas a terrorist organization or not? Should enemy leadership not be targeted? Israel will be vilified no matter what it does. Their remarkable restraint over the years has gained them nothing. The first withdrawal from Gaza supposedly earned them some goodwill and the right to hit back hard if violence continued… that didn’t last long.

    The world condemns Jewish actions but again ignores the Arab violence and rewards their violent backwards culture with sympathy. If it was Mexico shelling Texas and kidnapping Americans, would we show the same restraint Israel continues to show?

  2. just me says:

    I honestly don’t think Israel is losing much, the world mostly hates them and thinks them evil anyway.

    If the Palestinian authority wasn’t controlled by a terrorist group I might feel more sympathy, but I think of this more in line with Reagan’s bombing of Lybia.

    Hamas is the controlling political party in the PA, they have claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, they have committed an act of war, Israel has every right to respond to an act of war, with acts of war. In some ways maybe an assasination will help-I think where Israel may be wrong here isn’t so much that the world will hate them, the world already hates them, but I am not sure the assination, if followed through on, would give them what they want, and may send the PA into greater chaos.

    Part of me thinks this may be more a threat than something they intend to follow through on, but assassination is something Israel has long been good at so maybe I am wrong.

  3. UziMan says:

    The Hamas Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh is the equivilant of UBL to Israel. He is the leader of a terrorist-entity that has turned Gaza into Hamastan with a charter that calls for death to Jews and the destruction of Israel. Israel has few options now that Hamas has attacked accross the border in an ” act of war”.

    They had their opportunity to prove to the world their intent, engage in PAL nation-building, and become the recipient of the greatest economic lagress since the Marshall plan. The Hamas leadership chose to use their new proximity to Israel to launch 800+ rockets into Israel.

    Israel is cognizant of world opinion, but, its security is the priority. When threatened, Israel pursues neutralizes their existential threats. Examples include, attack on Iraqi reactor, Sheik Yassin, PLO terror-leders, etc. Screw world opinion. They really never cared what happens to Jews. Take the Jihadists out. Let the crds fall where they may. The world will cluck their tounges, the UNSC will have another anti-Isreal confab, the Arabs will ramp-up the ” street” with anti-western riots, a couple of embassies will be attacked, and all will return to what passes for noprnal. The bottom line will be a grave warning, once again,to those who threaten Jews and Israel. Eventually the arabs will learn that it just dosen’t pay to contnue to cling to their 50 year old dream of a Caliphate ” from the river to the sea” and that the path to peace is through reconciliation and resonable negotiation. Until their awakening to the realities of their self-destructive death-cult Jihadism, chop off the head of the snake.

  4. Bithead says:

    I’m with van der Galien, on this one.
    Isn’t 40 years of demonstrating that the only thing you’ll understand is raw power enough to convince the world that the “Palestinians” only understand raw power?

    Moreover the Israelis are not losing anything. Notice that the remainder of the year of world as been backing off their support of the Palestinians since this move from Israel. Israel’s doing the right thing here. And something, frankly, which should have been done decades ago and but for the extreme patience of the Israeli people would have been done.

  5. Kyle says:

    Your assertion that “One doesnâ??t murder a head of state and launch a war because terrorists have kidnapped a soldier” is sadly true in this morally relativistic world… but shouldn’t be.

    As Heinlein once said in Star Ship Troopers, “Men are not potatoes”…

    The FACT is that Hamas is a terrorist group running what is now a terrorist state. Israel has the RIGHT to defend itself and I applaud the fact that they are willing to do what we SHOULD be doing (and Pres. Bush said we would be doing) and prosecuting this War on Terror to its fullest extent….

  6. Anat says:

    Scoose me, couldn’t see any direct link to an Israeli letter of any kind. Only an Australian paper saying that the Palestinians say there was one. Couldn’t find any reference to such letter on any Israeli paper online. Before discussing the implications, could you be certain this is a real item?

  7. Veritas Regina says:

    As other commenters have said, the terrorists among the Palestinians ARE rightly seen as rabid dogs and should be quarantined and eventually removed. Of course it will be called “genocide”, but enough is enough. They have infected their own children with their sick mindset, so the disease cycle will continue, seemingly forever.

  8. Anat says:

    The Palis have been bombarding the press with unverifiable definitions and statements. The elusive letter discussed here is just one. Another concerns a cabinet ministers saying that “mediators” told him they saw Shalit and he was fine. Here too, no proof and no direct reference to an eye witness, despite the fact that only two days ago the Palis pretended to negotiate on another hostage, Asheri, whom they must have known was already dead.
    Then there is the canard of “collective punishment” as description for the bombing the the bridges and a power station, a canard promptly adopted by Amnesty International, despite the indisputable fact that bridges and power stations used by combatants are proper military targets. The sad facts that the Pali combatants mix in with civilians and share their facilities is their own responsibility under the Geneva Conventions (Protocol 1, 1977, article 51 clause 7): “The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.” Yet Amnesty and practically the entire press adopt the Palestinian false definition of “collective punishment”.

  9. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    James, when did the state of war between the Palistinians and Israel ever end? The Palistinians will not accept the fact that the state of Israel exists. I think at some point you may have to either remove them, or kill all of them, or atleast enough to cause them to sue for peace, without interference of those who do not have to live under the constant threat of the violence the Palistinians are and have been capable of.

  10. efuji says:

    Hamas is to Israel like Al Qaeda is to the US. If they choose to deliberately murder (and probably torture) an Israeli soldier the Israelis should consider it an act of war and their response should be all out and not measured. This means killing any and all members of the Hamas Hierarchy up to and including the President and all other leaders. Lower level Palestinian civilians should be left to last, but no Israeli lives should be risked to protect these Palestinian civilians.

  11. Fletcher says:

    It burns up liberals whenever anyone takes a different course than Jimmy Carter when Iran took hostages in the 1970s.

    Imagine the fires on the Left if Israel gets its soldier back?

  12. Greg says:

    One doesn�t murder a head of state and launch a war because terrorists have kidnapped a soldier.

    What does your proclamation mean? You wish the Israelis would do as you authorize?

  13. The Hamas renegades who kidnapped Shalit would love for Israel to murder the PM, ensuring that a state of war will be made permanent.

    This implies you believe there isn’t currently a more or less permanent state of war. I’d love to know how you come to that conclusion.

    (Of course, no state of war is really “permanent”, and this one isn’t either. Either the Palestinians will eventualy get their way — the complete destruction of Israel — or the Palestinians will evenually be in a position in which they’re forced to accept the existence of Israel. There is no other solution possible. The Israelis are just making that a little more explicit.)

  14. Bithead says:

    The words of Patrick Henry would seem to be worth remembering in within the context that James has set us, here:

    It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!

    How many decades of attack must a single country into or before a slap down is considered justified? Israel, most certainly, has put up with this nonsense since the 1940’s. This is not due to incursions by Israel, but rather by the continual attacks of its neighbors.

    I consider that Israel’s response in this matter is completely justified, indeed, more than justified. Matter of fact, to be honest with you, I worry that they might have waited too long for this response.

  15. das says:

    If Israel took out the Palestinian PM the Arab world would hate Israel, Europe would turn luke-warm in Israel’s defense and the United States would chide Israel severely.

  16. jainphx says:

    America waited, How Long, to take out the country that harbored the attackers of 9-11. We would even have killed all leaders of the Taliban if could be found.How dare any tell Israel how to prosecute their on going(50 some years)version of 9-11.How dare you!

  17. Again, though, the propaganda value to Hamas and the Palestinians of an Israeli murder of an elected head of state would be tremendous.

    With all due respect, sir, the propoganda value of just about everything Israel does is ‘tremendous’ and the efforts to exploit them are persistent and relentless.

    Quite simply, because Haniyeh was duly elected by the Palestinian people does not expunge his role as a leader of a terrorist organization with much Israeli civilian blood on his/their hands.

    If David Duke or a Grand Wizard of the KKK, for instance, were elected President of the United States, would either no longer bear responsibility for the actions of the groups they lead aside from political office?

    Dig a little bit deeper and ask where Hamas obtained the advanced anti-tank missiles fired that took out a Merkava tank (considered by many the finest in the world, including the M1A2 Abrams) in the tunnel raid that netted Hamas Cpl. Shalit to begin with.

    Please consider this from Anatomy of An Attack: The Palestinian Tunnel Raid:

    This is likely part of the �new capabilities� that Hamas promised recently. Abu Abdullah, Izzadin el-Kassam�s commander, recently warned of a �unique response� to Israel and went so far as to declare Hamas� new capabilities, admitting this to be their principal objective during the recently abandoned informal cease-fire with Israel. Abdullah told Aaron Klein, �In the last 15 months, even though the fighters of Hamas kept the cease-fire, we did not stop making important advancements and professional training on the military level. In the future, after Hamas is obliged to stop the cease-fire, the world shall see our new military capabilities.� Now that Hamas has determined themselves �obliged to stop the cease-fire,� the tunnel system and the effective anti-tank missiles are certainly part the �new military capabilities� for a terrorist group once relegated to attacking the mighty Merkava tank with RPG�s and roadside bombs.

    For those who wish to draw the (intentionally obscuring) distinction, “Izzadin el-Kassam” is the ‘military’ wing of Hamas.

    Again for those who wish to draw such distinctions, is the ‘military wing’ of the United States responsible for the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq or prosecuting the (visible) War on Terror? Or is it, perhaps, guided and directed by the duly elected government of the United States?

    No one wants to hand anything of propoganda value over to the enemy. However, again with all due respect, James, perhaps the concern over propganda value in this instance is a concern tied more closely to international relations nuance than fundamental principle.

    With countless buses and restaurants (and their civilian occupants) in Israel intentionally targeted by terrorists, coupled with the emergence of kidnap & execution as a new Hamas (et al) tactic, at some point enough must be enough.

    Perhaps Israel is simply at that point, and their concern for Int’l nuance is trumped by the security of their civilian population.

  18. RLS says:

    If this is true, I think it is great. I would go even further and publicly announce that the Hamas PM must select another Hamas member to die with him. That if he doesn’t, Israel will kill ten additional Hamas members.

    Then tell Hamas and Fatah both that any future attacks on Israel will trigger the same policy – Israel will choose one Hamas (or Fatah) member for assassination and expect them to choose another member to die with them or ten (10) other will die in the one’s place.

    Then make damn sure that THEY DO IT!!

  19. “a democratically elected head of state, sharply raised the stakes.”

    First things first, palestine is not a “State”
    and hasn’t been since King David gave them the boot and built Jerusalem as his Capitol.

    Second, the bulk of the world hates Israel anyway.
    and 9 out of ten arabs in the street have bought in to the Israel must be purged from the earth ideology

    If the Secular Israeli gov’t is beginning to grow cojones perhaps they have achance at survival. Screw world opinion, as long as the US doesn’t five up on Israel it will all be Ok in the end.

  20. “give up”

  21. The irony here is that Israel had international sympathy, with even Arab states like Egypt pressuring for Shalitâ??s release. But this moronic threat will surely change that.

    I don’t know whether the threat was a good idea or not, but its merits have nothing to do with phony international sympathy. People are sympathetic when the Jews are victims, but the whole point is not to be a victim, even if that loses some sympathy. What good is sympathy to people who are being killed?

  22. Anat says:

    For God’s sake, IT’S A CANARD !!! Two days into this story but no other source, Israeli or other, has verified any threat on Haniyeh’s life. The Australian either made it up or its Palestinian sources did.

  23. A.W. of says:

    I find it odd that you are not at all interested in the question of whether it is morally right for isreal to do this.

    Isreal’s view of the matter is rather simple. The head of the pal government is the head of a terrorist group. Its like as if Osama bin Laden was elected head of the Afghan government. Their view is, elected or not, if they don’t get their guy back, they are going to take it out on that terrorist scumbag.

    If Osama bin Laden became the head of a government, would we refrain from killing or capturing him?

    I wouldn’t.

    If Isreal is telling the truth, then I support it. Do what you have to do.

    If the rest of the world doesn’t get that, well, f— them.

  24. rwilymz says:

    The Hamas renegades who kidnapped Shalit would love for Israel to murder the PM, ensuring that a state of war will be made permanent.

    You’re kidding, right?

    Surely you didn’t just wake up and notice Israel exists. …their entire military history.

    If Hamas were to declare open war on Israel, it would signal the end of Hamas, veritably guaranteeing that a state of war NOT be permanent.

    Good grief, bud, grab a military history book and read up.

  25. Vlad Wielbut says:

    I’m afraid this is a canard, but boy, do I wish this were true! It is high time for Israel (and for the US for that matter), to start behaving a bit more irresponsibly, if not outright crazy in this war. World’s sympathy? Screw it! It ended for us soon after it became clear after 9/11 that the US would not roll over and die, but intends to punch back. Oh, the outrage! The condemnations! Israel should borrow the playbook from that nutcase, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and start talking about wiping Palestine off the map, or nuking Tehran. Apparently, he gets results, with the Europeans offering a “package of incentives” so that Iran does not build The Bomb. How about a nice package of incentives from the Arab countries for not hanging a big mushroom cloud over Mecca?
    You can’t get the attention of fanatical killers by playing nice. They’ve been chopping people’s heads in front of video cameras, and the world gets upset because American soldiers – the savages! – photographed naked Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and play-acted electrocution. If the world is going to hate the Jews and the Americans anyway, why not at least give them good reasons?