Friday, March 26, 2010

Israel opts to ‘lie low’ after Britain expels its spy chief

By Jonathan Cook

"NAZARETH, ISRAEL // Israel chose to “lie low” yesterday in response to Britain’s decision to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged passports in the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai, though senior officials were reported to be seething in private.

According to the Israeli media, the foreign ministry was surprised by the British move against its embassy official, widely believed to be the London station chief for Israel’s Mossad spy agency. Israeli officials noted the gravity of the decision: no Israeli diplomat has been expelled from a western country in more than two decades.....

But Amir Oren, a leading military affairs commentator for the liberal Haaretz newspaper, sounded a more critical note, castigating Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, for being “the one who did not check things fully, did not weigh the risks and rewards, and eroded Israel’s diplomatic standing around the world”.

He noted that Israel had broken a promise it made in 1986 not to misuse British passports after a Mossad agent left a batch of eight passports in a phone box in Germany. A year later Britain closed down Mossad’s offices in London after a Palestinian double agent was discovered with an arms cache.

Zvi Stauber, a former Israeli ambassador the Britain, said London had no interest in blowing up the affair but that “they had to do something”."

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