'Politics behind New Zealand’s claim Israeli was a spy'

Official in Jerusalem says allegations that Israeli killed in Christchurch quake was a Mossad agent are result of domestic politics.

New Zealand Christchurch earthquake_311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
New Zealand Christchurch earthquake_311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Domestic New Zealand politics is behind allegations that erupted in the New Zealand press this week that one of the Israeli backpackers killed in February’s devastating Christchurch earthquake was a Mossad agent, Israeli officials said Wednesday.
According to the officials, as New Zealand heads toward the polls at the end of November, opponents of Prime Minister John Key are trying to portray him as “lenient” on Israel.
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Amid local media reports of another Israeli spy scandal in New Zealand, Key, currently on a visit to the US, issued a statement Tuesday claiming that an investigation carried out by the Security Intelligence Service showed no connection between the Israeli who was killed – or the three surviving Israelis with him in a van crushed during the devastating earthquake – and Israeli intelligence.
“The Government takes the security of New Zealand and New Zealanders very seriously. That’s why the relevant agencies conducted a thorough investigation,” Key said in a statement.
“The unusual circumstance which triggered the investigation was the rapid departure from the country of the three surviving members of the group of Israelis in question,” he said. “Security agencies conducted the investigation and found no evidence that the people were anything other than backpackers.”
Israeli officials said the conspiracy theories linking the Israeli youths to the Mossad were “astounding.”
Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand, Shemi Tzur, was quoted in the New Zealand press as calling the allegations “science fiction.”
Key refuted New Zealand media reports that the Israeli killed in the van, Ofer Mizrahi, was carrying five passports. He carried two passports, an Israeli one and a European one. Many young Israelis eligible to hold European passports procure them before traveling abroad to facilitate easier entry into various countries.
Along with Mizrahi, two other Israelis were among the 181 people killed in the earthquake.
New Zealand’s Southland Times reported that the police national computer had been “under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake” out of fear that Israeli agents may have hacked into the network, providing a backdoor entrance to sensitive information.
Israeli diplomatic officials said stories such as these fall on fertile ground in New Zealand, where two Israelis whom Auckland said were Mossad agents were convicted in 2004 of passport fraud in an incident that severely strained bilateral ties for a number of years.