Miliband: Diplomat expelled and travel advice to Israel changed

The Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Britain had specified an Israeli diplomat to be sent home because of a specific link with the findings of Soca.

By Jessica Elgot, March 23, 2010
David Miliband told MPs that he was disappointed with Israel and would expel an Israeli diplomat.

David Miliband told MPs that he was disappointed with Israel and would expel an Israeli diplomat.

The Foreign Secretary David Miliband has declared his disappointment with Israel in a statement to the House of Commons in which he accused Israel of faking British passports and confirmed he had expelled an Israeli diplomat.

Based on the sophistication of the technique used to clone the passports, Mr Miliband said: “The government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service.”

He said that the fact that the UK considers Israel a close ally “was adding insult to injury”.

He confirmed that the UK had selected an official, whom they believe was involved in the alleged forgeries, to be sent back to Israel.

He said: "This is not a random selection. This is not a selection by the government of Israel. It's a selection by us."

But Mr Miliband refused to identify the diplomat, despite requests from MPs after the statement was made.

Israel ambassador Ron Prosor said: “The relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom is one of mutual importance. Hence we are disappointed by the British Government’s decision.

"We are about to celebrate the renovation of the Israeli Embassy here in the United Kingdom. It is now our intention to strengthen the firm foundations of our relationship, which is vital and beneficial for both our countries."

UK passport holders should be aware of a recent Serious Organised Crime Agency investigation into the misuse of UK passports in the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on 19 January 2010. The SOCA investigation found circumstantial evidence of Israeli involvement in the fraudulent use of British passports. This has raised the possibility that your passport details could be captured for improper uses while your passport is out of your control. The risk applies in particular to passports without biometric security features. We recommend that you only hand your passport over to third parties including Israeli officials when absolutely necessary.

The updated FCO Travel Advice to Israel

The Foreign Office will now change the travel advice to Israel on its website, linked to how it believes passports were copied by Israel at Ben Gurion airport.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the move and asked for assurances that such a thing would never happen again.

Mr Miliband said he had asked Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to make this assurance.

Pro-Palestinian MPs were out in force in the commons, including Sir Gerald Kaufman, Jeremy Corbyn and Bob Marshall-Andrews.

Many pressed for Britain to take stronger action against Israel and demanded that Mr Miliband should directly link Israel to the assassination of Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

But the Foreign Secretary would say only that he accepted “at face value” Mr Lieberman’s assurances that Israel was not involved.

Last updated: 4:56pm, March 23 2010