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The Secret Mission of William J. Burns

By       Message James Wall     Permalink
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Netanyahu's allies in the U.S. Israel Lobby, including members of Congress, led by New York Senator Charles Schumer and his Republican colleague from Illinois, Senator Mark Kirk, in concert with pro-Israel media, and conservative Jewish organizations, have all joined Israel's side in an effort to scuttle the agreement with Iran.

This is not the first time Benjamin Netanyahu has encountered William J. Burns. Sixteen years after his first low-level posting in Amman, Burns returned to Jordan in 1998 as the U.S. ambassador.

Speaking to the Senate committee considering his nomination in 1998, Burns said:

"It is a special honor and pleasure to have been nominated to return as Ambassador to Jordan, where I began my diplomatic career sixteen years ago."

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The new ambassador began his second tour in Amman a few months after September 25, 1997, when, on a sidewalk in Amman, a team of Israeli assassins unsuccessfully tried to kill Hamas political bureau director Khalid Mishal, by injecting poison in his ear.

Burns was not serving in Jordan at the time. He was, however, the U.S. ambassador who had to deal with the diplomatic aftermath of the failed Israeli assassination attempt.

That connection calls for consideration of a book that appeared twelve years after the failed assassination attempt. Australian journalist Paul McGeough published a meticulously well-crafted account of the street attack and its aftermath, Kill Khalid: The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas. (The New Press, 2009).

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In my August 2, 2009 Wall Writings posting  on the book, I described it this way:

Kill Khalid
"The book races along like a spy thriller, starring real-life leaders like Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, President Bill Clinton, the King of Jordan, and Khalid Mishal, whose near-death experience in Amman projected him into his current role as the leader of the Hamas political bureau.

"This is a story of intrigue, deceit, plot twists, villains and heroes that cries out to be made into a movie. And yet, just as the events of 1997 were largely ignored by mainstream media, McGeough's 2009 book has received limited attention, with a few exceptions, all available on line: Jane Adas, in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs; Adam Shatz, in the London Review; and Greg Myre, in The Washington Post."

The story itself quickly faded from western consciousness.

For this reason, it is important to recall the story of the failed Israeli assassination attempt on Hamas leader Khalid Mishal at this time, when William J. Burns, the former U.S. ambassador to Jordan, once again enters and troubles Benjamin Netanyahu's tightly controlled universe.

Kill Khalid provides considerable insight into an important moment in history for anyone wishing to comprehend the unbridled passion of Benjamin Netanyahu, a passion that heats up whenever he is confronted by anyone who fails to give him precisely what he demands.

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Paul McGeough's book should also be read as background for recent findings on what is now widely accepted as the poisoning death of Palestinian President Yasir Arafat.

Note the similarities: Israel's method of killing an opponent, which was ordered in Khalid Mishal's case by the then Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, was planned to be carried out in secret.

The poison used on Mishal was slow working and almost impossible to detect. The plan was for Mishal to receive the poison in what was to appear to be an accidental encounter with a man on the street.

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)

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