Senior members of parliament have slammed comments made by an Israeli diplomat on plans to “take down” the UK’s deputy foreign secretary over his criticism of Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied West Bank.
Emily Thornberry, the Labour Party’s shadow foreign secretary, called the statements by Shai Masot – a senior political offficer at the Israeli embassy in London – “extremely disturbing” and demanded a probe into the potential extent of political “interference” in the United Kingdom.
Masot’s comments were secretly captured on film during a six-month undercover operation by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, which reveals plots by the Israeli diplomat and a British civil servant to destroy the careers of senior politicians .
“It is simply not good enough for the Foreign Office to say the matter is closed. This is a national security issue,” Thornberry said in a statement.
“The embassy official involved should be withdrawn, and the government should launch an immediate inquiry into the extent of this improper interference and demand from the Israeli government that it be brought to an end,” she said.
In the recorded conversation with Maria Strizzolo, who was then chief of staff to MP Robert Halfon, the deputy chairman of the ruling Conservative Party, Masot asked if he could give her some names of parliamentarians he would suggest she “take down”.
Masot named Deputy Foreign Minister Sir Robert Duncan, who in 2014 said while he fully supports Israel’s right to exist, he believes settlements on occupied Palestinian land represent an “ever-deepening stain on the face of the globe”.
He also likened the situation in Hebron in the occupied West Bank to apartheid.
Strizzolo later hinted that “a little scandal” might see Duncan dismissed.
At the same dinner table conversation, Masot described British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Duncan’s boss, as an “idiot … without any kind of responsibilities”, while Strizzolo said he was “solid on Israel”.
Since the announcement by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit of its findings – and the international media coverage that followed – the Israeli embassy tweeted a response saying that Masot would be “ending his term shortly”, adding that Mark Regev, ambassador of Israel to the UK, had apologised to Duncan “and made clear that the embassy considered the remarks to be completely unacceptable”.
Al Jazeera learned on Sunday that Strizzolo had resigned from her post.
Scottish National Party MP Alex Salmond reiterated the call on Sunday for Masot’s deportation.
“Boris Johnson must right now revoke Mr Masot’s diplomatic status and remove him from the country as would most certainly have happened had the circumstances been reversed. Perhaps then the Israeli government representatives will regard the foreign secretary as less of a fool.”