Israeli murders of Palestinian resistance leaders are not normally condemned by Australian government ministers. Not even the 2002 murder of Salah Shehade in Gaza, in which the murder weapon was a one-tonne bomb from an F-16 jet, and 14 other people, nine of them children, were killed.
However, the January 20 electrocution and asphyxiation of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai was different: the operation involved cloned Australian passports and identity theft from Australian citizens.
The Dubai police have shown the media passports used by 26 members of the death squad. While the passports' photos apparently show the actual killers, the names, details and passport numbers belonged to different people.
All held non-Israeli passports but resided in Israel. Three of the victims of identity fraud were Australian.
On February 21, the British Sunday Times reported that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had approved the operation by Israel's secret police, Mossad, which has a long record of murdering Israel's political opponents in foreign countries.
On February 25, Israeli ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem was summoned to a meeting with foreign minister Stephen Smith, who afterwards told reporters: "I've made it crystal clear to the ambassador that if the results of that investigation cause us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials, then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend …
"I also indicated to him that if we didn't receive [full] cooperation [from Israeli officials] then we would potentially draw adverse conclusions from that."
PM Kevin Rudd added: "If Australian passports are being used or forged by any state, let alone for the purpose of assassination, this is of the deepest concern and we are getting to the bottom of this now. We will not leave a single stone unturned."
In 2004, then Palestinian diplomatic representative in Canberra, Ali Kazak, said Mossad had obtained 25 false Australian passports. "I told you but you didn't act on the warning. And you've put Australian lives at risk", he told the February 26 Australian.
"[Did] the Australian government, [or then foreign minister] Alexander Downer, investigate seriously this Mossad activity? No, I don't think so. This neglect, this appeasement, this closing of eyes towards Israel is putting Israel's interest above Australia."