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Israeli embassy’s influence on British politics exposed by undercover reporter

27th Jan 2017


Ala Abbas

It has been revealed by an undercover reporter that an Israeli diplomat has been orchestrating operations set to influence British politics and has spoken of wanting to “take down” certain pro-Palestinian MPs.

Shai Masot, who has worked at the Israeli Embassy in London since November 2014, was filmed a few times by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter calling himself Robin. Last October he was filmed at a restaurant saying he wanted to “take down” UK MPs who were supportive of Palestinians, implying that he would do this by trying to find possible scandals they could be involved in. Maria Strizzolo, a senior civil servant and former aide of Conservative MP Robert Halfon, was also filmed at the restaurant.

During the conversation, Strizzolo boasted that she had helped to secure a promotion for her boss Robert Halfon. Masot agreed and asked whether she could also achieve the opposite effect. “Can I give you some MPs that I would suggest you would take down?” When Strizzolo asked for names, Masot said “The deputy foreign minister,” referring to Sir Alan Duncan. Strizzolo replied: “You still want to go for it?” Masot said Duncan was still causing problems, to which Strizzolo responded: “I thought we had, you know, neutralised him just a little bit, no?” Masot answered: “No.”

Another MP Masot named was Crispin Blunt, Chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who is also a vocal supporter of the Palestinians. Blunt said: “…this apparent activity of a diplomat of a foreign state in the politics of the United Kingdom is formally outrageous and deserving of investigation”.  He added that “Israel’s future peace and security is not being served by ignoring the substantial peace lobby in both Israel and the worldwide Jewish community and working to undermine those foreign politicians who share that perspective.”

Robin was posing as a member of Labour Friends of Israel when he was filming Masot. Last July, Masot suggested to him that he wanted to establish a Young Labour Friends of Israel. He told Robin not to tell other people that the Israeli embassy would be involved in establishing the group. “LFI is an independent organisation. No one likes that someone is managing his organisation. That really is the first rule in politics.”

In the latest recordings, Masot boasts of establishing organisations “in Israel and here [in the UK]”. When asked what he means, the Israeli official replies: “Nothing I can share, but yeah,” adding: “Yeah, because there are things that, you know, happen, but it’s good to leave those organisations independent. But we help them, actually.”

The Israeli Embassy said Masot “will be ending his term of employment with the Embassy shortly”. Masot has described his role in diplomacy as the chief point of contact between the Embassy and MPs and officials at the Foreign Office. He says he is still employed by the Israel Defence Force.

The scandal prompted Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, to write a letter to Prime Minister, Theresa May, calling for an Inquiry. He wrote: “Many Members of Parliament and the public will be extremely concerned at this evidence of attempts to undermine the integrity of our democracy…This is clearly a national security issue. I would, therefore, ask that you treat the matter as such and launch an inquiry into the extent of this improper interference. It is only on that basis that Parliament and the public will be reassured that such activities will not be tolerated by your government.”

Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has stated that he considers the matter closed. A Government Spokesman said Britain’s relationship with Israel remained “strong” and there would be no further action.

A former minister in David Cameron’s Government said there needed to be a full inquiry into the Israeli Embassy’s links with the Conservative Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Israel.

The former minister wrote anonymously in the Mail on Sunday saying: “For years the CFI and LFI have worked with – even for – the Israeli embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK government policy and the actions of ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.”

Al Jazeera’s sting operation, which began in June and ran through to November last year, recorded a number of conversations involving a wide range of pro-Israeli activists as well as British politicians and Israeli Embassy staff.

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