Israel mum on UK passport promises

Officials say they are unaware if Lieberman will provide UK with guarantee.

March 25, 2010 22:37
1 minute read.
 Foreign Minister and Israel Beiteinu party chairm

avigdor lieberman 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Israeli officials said on Thursday they were unaware whether Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will provide the British with promises that Israel will not use UK passports in future clandestine operations, as London is demanding.

Such a decision would be made at the country’s highest levels and with input from the security services, and not by the Foreign Ministry, one official said. A source in Lieberman’s office would not comment on the matter.

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British’s Independent newspaper reported that without such a promise, Israel would not be permitted to replace the diplomat being expelled, believed to be the Mossad representative in London, with someone else.

“The situation is not negotiable,” the newspaper quoted British diplomatic officials as saying.

Britain announced on Tuesday it was expelling the diplomat, after concluding that Israel was responsible for the forgeries of 12 UK passports allegedly used by the hit-squad that killed Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January.

While Israel pledged in the late 1980s, after an envelope with eight forged British passports were found at a German phone booth and traced back to the Mossad, that it would not take such actions in the future, the current case is different because of Mabhouh’s assassination.

For Jerusalem to make such a pledge, observers explained, would be tantamount to admitting involvement in the Mabhouh hit, something the government was unwilling to do.

Lieberman, in a statement issued after Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced that the diplomat would be expelled, said Israel “was not given any proof pointing to Israeli involvement in the affair.”

Last month, soon after the story about the passports broke, Lieberman said, “I don’t know why we are assuming that Israel, or the Mossad, used those passports.”

True to Israel’s policy of maintaining ambiguity where security operations were concerned, Lieberman said at the time that Israel “never responds, never confirms and never denies.”

There was no reason now “for Israel to change this policy,” he said.

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