The Khashoggi murder in perspective

Special to

By Norman Bailey

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was a heinous crime, but Israel’s rapprochement with the Gulf states is far more significant.

CCTV footage shows missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Two events have taken place within the last few weeks. One is potentially of immense significance and the other is not.

The first consists of the many indications that several of the Gulf states are preparing to recognize Israel’s right to exist and their own multiple benefits from recognizing that right: A visit by the prime minister to Oman where he met with the Sultan; visits by two other government ministers to the UAE, where the Israeli anthem was played and the Israeli flag displayed; a former Kuwaiti minister publicly stating that the time has come for recognition of Israel, and a similar statement by the Omani foreign minister. The mild response to 500 rockets sent from Gaza into Israel as well as the refusal of Netanyahu to dissolve his government after the departure of Avigdor Liberman is a sure indication that he expects these startling events to result in concrete action in a relatively short time frame, which would, if it happens, be the crowning glory of his many years in government.

Another indication is the absolute silence observed by the Israeli government concerning the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, apparently as the result of a botched attempt to kidnap him and send him to Riyadh.

The media and the international community, of course, made a huge outcry over this event while relatively little attention is paid to a potential seismic shift in the geopolitical configuration of the entire region.

Mr. Khashoggi did not deserve to die, no doubt. His murder was a heinous crime, but let’s put this event into some kind of perspective. Governments assassinate their opponents all the time, and on purpose, not as a result of an operation gone wrong. Only the methods vary — the U.S. prefers drones while Russia tends to use exotic poisons. Israel has assassinated individuals ranging from terrorist bosses to Iranian nuclear scientists. Sometimes the people killed are foreigners, sometimes citizens of the country arranging their deaths — as in the case of Khashoggi.

The French refer to the justifications for such official murders as “raisons d’etat”, reasons of state. The state can justify certain actions that individuals cannot. Why? Because the state is charged with the defense and promotion of the country it represents by whatever means it finds appropriate. Individuals, groups and organizations represent only themselves and thus are legally and morally barred from certain actions — theft, murder, fraud, and so on.

Whether this distinction is morally valid or not I leave to others to debate.

What in undeniable is that (1) that is how the world operates and (2) the quality of the Western media is worsening all the time. As a Roman would have said about all this: “Quod erat demostrandum”.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, D.C., and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa. He was formerly with the U.S. National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.