Argument: Failed assassination attempts are embarrassing for a government
Targeted killing is a risky business, especially when missions fail, and they often do. The outcome in such cases is operationally damaging, and some blundered attempts have entangled Israel in a diplomatic morass.
In 1973, for example, a Mossad team in Lillehammer, Norway, on a mission to assassinate a PLO leader, mistakenly targeted an innocent restaurant waiter and caused an unpleasant diplomatic incident between Israel and Norway. Worse, in September 1997, two Mossad agents were captured in Amman after attacking a Hamas leader, Khalid Mash‘al, with a high-tech device intended to poison him. Mash‘al's life was saved after he was treated with an antidote demanded of the Israelis by the furious King Hussein. The failed attempt was not only a blow to the Mossad's impeccable image but also to fragile Israeli-Jordanian relations. It occurred during one of the low points of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process during the short term of the right-wing government of Binyamin Netanyahu. To ease the king's wrath over Israel's violation of Jordanian sovereignty, Netanyahu himself secretly traveled to Jordan, but King Hussein refused to meet with him, sending his crown prince instead. Subsequently, a deal was reached to spare the two Mossad agents from trial in Jordan by exchanging them for Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, imprisoned in Israel. The assassination attempt meant to weaken the leadership of Hamas instead ended up achieving exactly the opposite result.
To make things worse, Israel also found itself involved in an embarrassing diplomatic incident with the government of Canada. It was discovered that the Mossad tried to cover its tracks by equipping Mash‘al's assassins with forged Canadian passports. The Mash‘al case is a good example of the risks involved in assassination attempts carried out in foreign countries. The short-term gain derived from a successful operation can be easily offset by the severe damage to long-term diplomatic relations in the case of a blunder."
Abraham D. Sofaer. "Responses to Terrorism. Targeted killing is a necessary option.". San Francisco Chronicle. March 26, 2004 - "The gravest risk associated with targeted killings is in fact that they can do more harm than good. This is why President Bush has warned Israel that, even though he acknowledges its right to defend itself against terrorist murderers, Israel should weigh carefully the consequences of its actions. Killing leaders of opposing governments and groups may be necessary, justified and may sometimes be the best and least damaging way of achieving positive political consequences. But such actions can also escalate the costs of a conflict, cause greater and more lasting embitterment and preclude nonmilitary solutions. At the most basic level, targeted killings can backfire when the wrong target is killed, or when would-be killers become victims or prisoners. When Israel tried some years ago to kill a well-known terrorist in Jordan, they not only missed their target, they were arrested. Jordan (which had just made peace with Israel) was furious, and Israel had to release none other than Yassin to get its agents released."