Dubai: Hit or miss?

In 1987 the then Conservative Foreign Office Minister Timothy Renton protested "in the strongest possible terms" to the Israeli ambassador about newspaper reports that forged British passports were being used by Mossad hit men targeting opponents abroad.

As the JC reported at the time, an apology was eventually issued by the Israeli government which assured Britain that it would take steps to avoid it happening again.

At the time of going to press the British Government was still circling around the issue of Israel's responsibility for the assassination of Hamas chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room.

Gordon Brown has asked the Serious Organised Crime Agency to investigate the use of forged British passports by the assassins, but not named Israel.

However, one Whitehall security source told the JC that the operation had all the hallmarks of a Mossad "hit" and pointed to previous scandals involving the use of Canadian and New Zealand passports by the Israeli intelligence service.

The Prime Minister has to be careful. This incident could not have come at a worse time for British-Israeli relations. The furore around the arrest warrant issued for Tzipi Livni last year is still toxic.

Israel has already threatened to exclude Britain from any future peace negotiations if it fails to fix its war crimes legislation.

The Israeli ambassador has now been called into the Foreign Office to answer questions.

He will have to recognise that Israel's hand has been seriously weakened. If it is proved that Israel was prepared to step so brazenly outside the rules of international law, hospitality and diplomatic protocol it will prove increasingly difficult to make the case for a fair judicial process for Israeli dignitaries visiting Britain.

Whatever way you look at it, state-sanctioned extra-judicial murder is a crime of the highest order.

The fact that Israel appears to have been caught red-handed doing what it promised it would stamp out nearly a quarter of a century ago, is more than humiliating.

The use of the forged passports of a close ally in order to carry out an assassination will be seen as a profound betrayal of trust.

    Last updated: 3:35pm, June 3 2010

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