Analysis: Israel left UK and US with no choice

By Martin Bright, March 25, 2010
Ambassador Ron Prosor emphasised the strength of Israeli-UK ties despite the current rowhe strength of Israeli-UK ties despite the current row

Ambassador Ron Prosor emphasised the strength of Israeli-UK ties despite the current rowhe strength of Israeli-UK ties despite the current row

On Tuesday evening, David Miliband made a point of honouring an invitation to attend a fundraiser for two prominent Jewish parliamentary candidates who make no secret of their support for Israel.
On the very day he had made a statement in Parliament condemning the cloning of British passports, he could have been forgiven for excusing himself from an event for Luciana Berger, the former director of Labour Friends of Israel, and Ruth Smeeth from the CST.

Earlier in the day, Mr Miliband had failed to attend an event to celebrate the renovation of the Israeli Embassy.

The Foreign Secretary's attitude to the two events illustrates the bind in which supporters of Israel within the government now find themselves.

Mr Miliband is one of Labour's staunchest voices in support of Israel, as he tried to make clear in response to hostile questions in the House of Commons following his statement. He has been a consistent voice in Cabinet for a change in the law on universal jurisdiction to protect Israeli public figures visiting this country.

The expulsion of a member of staff at the Israeli Embassy was a measured response, but no one present in the chamber could have been in any doubt about the level of Mr Miliband's anger at the cloning of the passports.

The misuse of British passports is intolerable

His statement was clear: "Such misuse of British passports is intolerable. It presents a hazard to the safety of British nationals in the region. Also, it represents a profound disregard for the sovereignty of the UK. The fact that that was done by a country that is a friend, with significant diplomatic, cultural, business and personal ties to the UK, only adds insult to injury. No country or government could stand by in such a situation."

In response, Israel's ambassador, Ron Prosor, simply emphasised the importance of the relationship between Israel and the UK and the fact the Israel was "disappointed by the British government's decision".

One Israeli official told the JC that the UK government had still provided no hard evidence of Israel's involvement in the forging of passports. The government in Jerusalem has been combing the Foreign Secretary's carefully worded statement for evidence of British uncertainty on the issue.

But there is no uncertainty. The Serious Organised Crime Agency delivered its report on events in Dubai to Home Secretary Alan Johnson last Friday and he presented it to ministerial colleagues on Monday. By the time it was presented to the Cabinet on Tuesday the die had been cast. No one in the British government is in any doubt that Israel is responsible for the passport forgeries.

It is significant that no prominent Labour Friends of Israel or Conservative Friends of Israel spoke up in Parliament on Tuesday. Both groups were hoping to draw a line under the affair and move on. As a consequence, however, Tuesday's questions on the floor of the House of Commons became a parade of veteran anti-Zionists as Gerald Kaufmann, Bob Marshall-Andrews, Jeremy Corbyn and Martin Linton stood up to take a pop at Israel.

The Israeli foreign ministry has said it hopes to replace its intelligence operative in the London embassy within a month. Although the name of the embassy official has not been released, Martin Linton, chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, helpfully suggested the name of military attaché Colonel Gil-Shlomo Caufman in Parliament on Tuesday. Any change of personnel will be clarified with the publication of the next diplomatic list - a public document.

However, the matter will not end here. The investigations into the cloning of passports from other European countries are yet to report and at some point the Dubai police will announce the final results of its inquiry into the assassination itself.

These are uncomfortable times for supporters of Israel. Mr Miliband made it clear by attending the fundraiser for Ms Berger and Ms Smeeth that he will hold the line, but he is losing patience with the Israel's increasingly unconvincing claims that there is no evidence of its involvement.

Martin Bright is the JC's political editor

Last updated: 2:23pm, March 25 2010