Does anyone remember the assassination of a top Hamas member by supposed Israeli Mossad agents in Dubai; the fuzzy CCTV footage, the dubious disguises, the international outcry, the Israeli denial? Well that was 2 months ago. Since then Israel has been embroiled in yet another international diplomatic row – this time over settlement construction in East Jerusalem. Such has the focus been on the settlement dispute that you could have almost been forgiven for thinking that the Dubai assassination episode had successfully been swept under the carpet; the story had seemingly fallen away from the headlines.
But yesterday the story was back in the headlines both here and in the UK, as the British Foreign Minister announced the decision to expel a high-level Israeli diplomat from the UK – most probably the head of Mossad’s UK office.
In his statement to the House of Commons, Davie Miliband noted that the forgery of UK passports by Israel “presents a hazard for the safety of British nationals in the region”. Travel advice from the British Foreign Office has been updated to include this following statement.
UK passport holders should be aware of a recent Serious Organised Crime Agency investigation into the misuse of UK passports in the murder of Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai on 19 January 2010. The SOCA investigation found circumstantial evidence of Israeli involvement in the fraudulent use of British passports. This has raised the possibility that your passport details could be captured for improper uses while your passport is out of your control. The risk applies in particular to passports without biometric security features. We recommend that you only hand your passport over to third parties including Israeli officials when absolutely necessary.
Tellingly, this comes before all information on the dangers of entering the Gaza strip or the threats of terrorism.
Not such good news for myself. I have presented by British passport to Israelis on dozens of occasions – carrying I.D. in Israel is obligatory and thus my passport has become essential for a whole number of things: entering public buildings, crossing checkpoints and so on. To be honest I am not too concerned (if at all), but I still feel somewhat bemused as to how Israel thought it could get away with showing so much “disregard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom”. You can’t imagine that they would have the chutzpah to undertake a similar action using US passports. Although given the vitriolic dislike towards Obama shown by some parts in Israeli society I wouldn’t put it pass them quite yet.
Still expelling a diplomat here and there is hardly going to change things. Promises and assurances that this will never happen again are meaningless; an Israeli diplomat was expelled from the UK in the 1987 due to a similar case of passport forgery.