Following a 20-minute meeting in London between Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor and a senior British diplomat on Thursday, Israeli officials are cautiously optimistic that a diplomatic crisis with Britain can be avoided over the fake British passports apparently used in the assassination of Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.
Prosor, emerging from his meeting with the Foreign Office’s Peter Ricketts, said he had “no additional information” to provide the British authorities.
Israel’s envoy to Dublin, Zion Evrony, made a similar comment when he was called in for a meeting at the Irish Foreign Ministry following revelations that three of those in the alleged hit squad had carried fake Irish passports.
“I said that I did not know anything about the event,” Evrony said.
One Israeli diplomatic official said there was no diplomatic crisis with the UK, “because there is nothing to connect this with Israel.”
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Just because the media had determined that the Mossad was responsible did not make it so, he said.
The official said that while he understood the British need to invite Prosor in for an explanation, as British citizens whose identities had been stolen were living in Israel, this was not the case with Ireland.
“There is nothing on which to base a diplomatic crisis, and I don’t think London is interested in one,” the official said. As evidence of this, he pointed to British efforts to downplay the Prosor meeting, by stressing that Prosor had been “invited” to the Foreign Office, and not “summoned” – a word that implies a reprimand – and that the meeting had been very short.
The official said he could not discount the possibility that the upcoming election in Britain was behind the Foreign Office’s decision to call in Prosor, because the British press was in near-hysteria over the issue, and the government had to show that it was doing something.
After Prosor left the Foreign Office, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Britain “wanted to give Israel every opportunity to share with us what it knows about this incident.”
Miliband said he hoped and expected that Israel would cooperate fully with the investigation that had been launched in Britain, and that this “is not going through the motions, that is the rightful business of government.”
“Any interference with British passports is an outrage,” he declared.
Miliband is expected to meet with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and discuss the issue on the sidelines of a meeting of the 27 EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.
Conservative Party leader David Cameron also entered the fray, saying that “at the very least, we need some assurances about the future, to make sure whatever has happened in the past can’t happen again, and I would expect the government to ask some pretty tough questions.”
Germany and France, which also had passports among those allegedly forged and used by the hit squad, also sought information on Thursday from the Israeli embassies in Berlin and Paris.
One Israeli diplomat said it seemed that Ireland, Germany and France were simply following Britain’s lead, and that once London had decided to call in the Israeli envoy for an explanation, they could not have done anything less.
On Monday, Dubai police released the names and photographs of 11 suspects in the slaying. Six carried British passports, five had Irish passports and the others used passports from Germany and France.
Dubai Police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim said on Thursday he was 99-percent certain that the Mossad was behind the assassination, and that if that were the case, he would ask Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant against Mossad head Meir Dagan, and perhaps also against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
While the Prime Minister’s Office would not comment on the matter, one
government official said Dubai would become “the laughingstock of the
Interpol community” if it requested international arrest warrants,
since “there is not one single piece of evidence that even remotely
connects this incident to Israel.”
The official added that the media frenzy over the issue, especially in
Britain, was being fueled by Dubai, which was carefully leaking select
pieces of information to promote its own investigation.
“We don’t know anything,” the official said. “We know only what Dubai
wants us to know, and they definitely have their own interests.”