herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Andrew Lynch: UK has thrown out Israeli diplomat, we'll do nothing

Over the past few weeks, the government of Israel has gravely insulted three other sovereign nations -- the USA, Britain and Ireland.

Two of those countries have responded with meaningful actions designed to show prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu exactly what they think of his bully-boy attitude.

The other has delivered a timid rap on the knuckles instead, clearly hoping that the whole embarrassing episode will go away as quickly as possible -- and sadly, there are no prizes for guessing which category we fall into.

The assassination of senior Mossad commander Mahmoud al-Mabdouh in his Dubai hotel room last January is a mystery that has yet to be fully resolved.

What we do know for sure is that the hit squad used forged passports from a number of different European countries, including 12 British and six Irish (a lot of people on Molesworth St today would love to know how they did it).

The killing has all the hallmarks of a planned operation by the Israeli secret service Mossad -- and that leaves the finger of blame pointing squarely at the government in Tel Aviv.

Earlier this week, Britain's youthful foreign secretary David Miliband decided to stop pussyfooting around.

Declaring that the forgery showed "a profound disregard for the sovereignty of the UK", he ordered the expulsion of a senior diplomat with Mossad connections from the Israeli Embassy in London.

He also laid out the full case against Israel in the House of Commons, stating that there was "compelling evidence" to show their government had known about the operation all along.

In stark contrast, the response from Dublin has been disappointingly timid. Shortly after the killing, ambassador Zion Evrony was summoned to a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs, which lasted just 20 minutes and apparently consisted of little more than a bland denial of responsibility.



airily

Since then, Dr Evrony has declined a request to attend a meeting of the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee, airily stating that "I cannot shed any light on the issue in question".

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin can hardly be accused of being blind to Israel's faults. Last month he visited the devastated area of Gaza, where he witnessed first-hand the devastating human cost of Israel's bombing campaign and openly criticised the continuing blockade.

He has also been quick to condemn the scandal at Dublin's passport office -- but on the even more serious issue of forged Irish travel documents, the kindest interpretation you can put on his inaction so far is that he has been waiting for the British to give a lead.

Perhaps the minister could also take inspiration from Hillary Clinton.

Last Friday the US secretary of state surprised Benjamin Netanyahu at home with a 45-minute phone call, angrily complaining about his decision to announce a new housing project in Palestinian territory during the recent visit of vice president Joe Biden.

Since then, the Israeli ambassador to the US has been summoned to Clinton's office for another dressing down, leaving him in no doubt that such insulting behaviour will not be tolerated again.

For a country that loves to complain about how vulnerable it is, Israel is showing an amazingly reckless disregard for its allies.

It's about time Ireland told them that until they come clean over the Mahmoud al-Mabdouh killing, we no longer fit that description.

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