Oz-Israel relations hit new low as Canberra expels spy
Australia-Israeli relations have not come under this much pressure since the bungling spook and lothario Amir Laty was thrown out of Canberra in 2003.
Faking Australian passports is arguably a more serious offence than trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to seduce female officials and cultivating the daughter of then Attorney General Philip Ruddock. That is what Laty did before he got his marching orders.
In Canberra’s leafy diplomatic neighbourhood of Yarralumla yesterday a senior Israeli diplomat, who is almost certainly a spy, was told to pack his or her bags for Tel Aviv.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announced what everybody already knew, that Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad had indeed faked five Australian passports to use in the assassination of Hamas gun runner Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai in January this year.
Worse still it had been caught in the act.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith was even more stoic than usual when he told the world yesterday that Israel was guilty as charged.
``Investigations and advice have left the government in no doubt Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports,’’ Mr Smith said.
``The high quality of these counterfeited passports points to the involvement of a state intelligence service.
``Australia’s relationship with Israel has always been founded on a basis of mutual respect and trust, but Israel’s actions in this respect have undermined that.’‘
Worse still, an almost animated Mr Smith announced that Israel had broken its word.
``The Dubai passports incident also constitutes a clear and direct breach of confidential undertakings between Australia and Israel dating back some years.’‘
Imagine that, Israel breaking an undertaking and international law to protect itself from its sworn enemies. What is the world coming to?
The government of Israel will never admit to the activities of its feared security agency - the Mossad. Nor will it cease and desist from using forged foreign passports or assassinations to achieve its aims.
Australia and others will try to immunise their passports against viral foreign governments or criminal groups. And spy agencies such as Mossad, and indeed Australia’s very own Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), will continue to infect them.
Stephen Smith decided on a tough response against Israel after he received a final report in April from the Australian Federal Police and last week from ASIO and the overseas spooks at the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS). He got the tick yesterday from Cabinet’s National Security Committee.
Intelligence shared between British and Australian agencies was also water tight in concluding that Israel, through Mossad, had stolen the identities of Australian, British, Irish, French and German dual-national citizens to conduct the hit on al-Mabhuh.
The expulsion of an Israeli is the latest in a long line of Middle East diplomats to be shown the door by Canberra.
Apart from the unfortunate Amir Laty, who seduced a junior official in the prime minister’s department and attempted to bed a Defence official, the most recent expulsion occurred in 2003 when Iraqi diplomat, Helal Ibrahim Aaref, was deported for allegedly being a spy. Given that Australia was at war with Iraq at the time the move was not controversial.
Middle Eastern countries dominate the diplomatic list of shame and in 2002 Saudi Arabia’s ambassador Mohammad Ibrahim al-Hejailan, was given his marching orders for mistreating local staff. In retaliation Riyadh did not send a replacement for three years.
Mossad is among the most professional spy agency in the world which makes its indiscretions even more remarkable. In Canberra its agents work peacefully alongside spooks employed by the US Central Intelligence Agency, Britain’s MI6, the French DGSE and spies from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, Germany, India, Pakistan, Singapore, the Philippines, Canada, Iran, Saudi Arabia, even New Zealand, and numerous other nations who are on the job 24/7. They are watching and listening and reporting back every day.
Israel will have one less in its Canberra mission by the end of the week.
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