After a torrent of undiplomatic language in the days after they discovered that Israel had used forged Australian passports in the assassination plot against a terrorist gun dealer in Dubai, Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith have fallen silent.
The British Government has stepped up its diplomatic offensive against Tel Aviv over the passport scandal by expelling Mossad’s London station chief, but Canberra has so far not followed suit although we have abstained from a vote in the United Nations.
Britain has a much more robust tradition of hard headed diplomacy than Australia. Our diplomats are trained to whisper and dance a two-step with the devil rather than risk the megaphone and a public confrontation.
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In the latest development in the fake passport controversy, Britain has expelled a senior Israeli diplomat and demanded a public assurance that Israel will not misuse British passports again.
This is in response to Israel’s Mossad spy agency allegedly killing a Hamas leader in Dubai in January, with the assassination team using forged foreign passports, including at least three from Australia.
However, you don’t have to be a chest thumping, Alexander Downer-like armchair warrior who relishes assassination to realise that western countries, including Australia, are overreacting.
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To the casual observer the Israeli embassy in Canberra looks like any other diplomatic mission in the leafy suburbs of Deakin and Yarralumla. Appearances can be deceiving.
The inside of Israel’s chancery building is more like a mini-fortress than the well-to-do family home visible from the street. Visitors are treated with all the caution you would expect from the world’s most suspicious and fearful regime whose enemies are everywhere, even quiet and peaceful Canberra.
There are no friendly receptionists offering cups of tea and visitors are greeted by lean looking men with crew cuts and bulges under their arms, ear pieces permanently in place. There are no smiles, no small talk, just searches, scans and an array of CCTV cameras.
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