British papers insist Israel owes UK an explanation

With the exception of 'The Times,' most of Britain's broadsheet newspapers led with the ongoing passport saga.

gordon brown 311 (photo credit: AP)
gordon brown 311
(photo credit: AP)
With the exception of The Times,most of Britain's broadsheet newspapers led on Thursday with theongoing passport saga. All had editorials that called for Israel tocooperate with the investigation but mainly questioned the Britishgovernment's response to the fraudulent use of British passports.
In its lead article, The Daily Telegraphmaintained that Britain would consider severing itsintelligence-sharing agreement with Israel if Mossad agents were provedto have stolen the identities of British passport-holders.
In its editorial, the Telegraphsaid the British government deserved better than the unsatisfactoryresponse it received from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on theissue, in light of the close relationship the countries maintained andthe intelligence-sharing between them.
"But Britain is an ally that enjoys a close, intelligence-sharingrelationship with Mossad on a number of important global securityissues, such as Iran's nuclear program. It is for this reason that theIsraeli authorities owe Britain an explanation, at the very least, asto how six of the assassins came to be using the identities of ourcitizens who are currently resident in Israel."
Although the Telegrapheditorial did not shy away from showing Mabhouh as a murderouscriminal, it still called for Israel to cooperate fully with theBritish investigation.
"Lieberman suggested that another country carried out the killing andmade it look as though Israel was the culprit. Mr. al-Mabhouh,moreover, was certainly no saint, and had taken refuge in Syria afterbeing involved in the murder of two Israeli soldiers in 1989. But thatmust not detract from the fact that the safety of British citizens inthe region has been compromised. Any suggestion that Israeliintelligence agents may have betrayed the bond of trust that existsbetween our countries to pursue their own agenda could also jeopardizefuture intelligence-sharing operations. To prevent a damaging rift fromdeveloping, Israel should offer its full cooperation with theinvestigation [Prime Minister] Gordon Brown has ordered into thisaffair."
In its editorial, The Guardiansaid the Serious Organized Crime Agency should present its findings tothe Israeli government and demand an explanation. If Israel did notcooperate, the newspaper said, stronger action should be implemented.
"Mossad agents routinely use false identities and forged Westernpassports, and each time they are caught doing it, Israel givesassurances they will not do it again," it said.
The Guardian said these assurances "are evidently worthless" and lists measures at Britain's disposal to come down hard on Israel.
"The only thing that will give Mossad pause for thought the next timeit eyes a target for assassination is if its political masters are madeto feel the consequences of its actions," the editorial maintained."There are at any given moment a plethora of tools at the disposal ofBritain and the EU, from bilateral diplomatic contacts and militarycontacts to arms and trade agreements. London is a key diplomaticlistening post for the Middle East and Britain is a vital interlocutorwith the Palestinians.
"There are any number of ways of getting the message across, not leastthe question of whether to change the law to make it harder for Britishcourts to issue arrest warrants, under the principle of universaljurisdiction, for former Israeli ministers accused of war crimes. Theenduring mystery is why Britain has been so reluctant to pull thelevers at its disposal."
The editorial also maintained that assassinations rarely achieved theiradvertised effect: "If the purpose here was to stop Hamas acquiringarms from Iran in Dubai, it will not prevent Teheran from providingweapons through another channel, and the Hamas commander will bequickly replaced. Assassinations such as these might, however, giveArab states even less reason than they already have to normalizerelations with Israel. Is that a tactical success or a strategicfailure?"
The Independent's editorial also criticized the British government's passive response.
"Well, the Prime Minister called for a 'full investigation' into howpseudo-British passports were allegedly used by Mr Mabhouh's killers -which sounded all very civilized and not terribly urgent. And had theForeign Office made any representations to Israel? No it had not. Nor,it initially said, were there plans to do so - though the ambassador isnow being called in today. Even accepting that suspects are innocentuntil proved guilty, this looks like extraordinarily supine behavior ina situation where, in essence, the good name of our country has beenimpugned."
Writing in The Daily Mail,Michael Burleigh believed that Mabhouh's assassination now was "apre-emptive cull" aimed at a terrorist organization that could assistIran if Israel attacked it.
"Many Middle Eastern intelligence experts believe Israel is conductinga 'pre-emptive' cull of leaders of Arab terrorist organizations whowould be prepared to help Iran retaliate in the event of any Israeliassault on Teheran's nuclear bomb program. And there is no doubt thatthe Israelis believe assassination works - that selective 'hits' canand do degrade the operational efficiency of terrorist organizations,"he said.