Israeli embassy official to be expelled

Tue, Jun 15, 2010, 01:00

The Government has confirmed it is to ask Israel to withdraw a member of staff at its embassy in Dublin following a report into the use of Irish passport numbers by suspects in the murder of a Hamas official.

The recommendation that the official be expelled arose following the consideration of two reports – one from the Garda and the other from the Department of Foreign Affairs passport service.

Eight fake Irish passports were among a number used by those allegedly responsible for assassinating Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in Dubai on January 19th.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said he briefed the Government on the outcome of the investigations this morning. He said investigations had discovered no additional evidence linking the Irish passports to Israel.

“The fact that the forged Irish passports were used by members of the same group who carried the forged British and Australian passports, leads us to the inescapable conclusion that an Israeli government agency was responsible for the misuse and, most likely, the manufacture of the forged Irish passports associated with the murder of Mr Mabhouh.”

The Minister said efforts to enlist the assistance of the Israeli authorities in the investigation of this case had “yielded no response and no denial" of Israeli involvement.

“The misuse of Irish passports by a State with, with which Ireland enjoys friendly, if sometimes frank, bilateral relations is clearly unacceptable and requires a firm response," he said.

"Accordingly, I have proposed, and the Government has agreed at today’s Cabinet meeting, that by way of protest at its unacceptable action, Israel be requested to withdraw a designated member of staff of its embassy in Dublin. This demand has been conveyed to the Israeli ambassador and I would expect it to be quickly acceded to.”

Mr Martin said that in accordance with normal diplomatic practice, he did not propose to reveal either the name or function of the official whom the Israeli government had been requested to withdraw.

“I want to state clearly that the official concerned is not accused or suspected of any particular wrongdoing. In being obliged to leave their post prematurely, the official concerned is a victim of the actions of the state they represent.”

Mr Martin said the Government had invested heavily in making the Irish passport the respected document which it is internationally and in improving the security of our system so that Irish citizens can travel in safety.

“Any actions which endanger our well earned reputation in this area require determined action to ensure there is no repetition.

“I believe that, by taking decisive action in this regard, the Government is conveying a clear message of protest at what has occurred and our firm expectation that it will not happen again.”

He said the Government condemned the murder of Mr Mabhouh.

“Many allegations have been made against Mr Mabhouh which, if true, would categorise him as a committed terrorist. The Irish Government does not believe that States should fight terror with terror. As a matter of principle, Ireland opposes extra-judicial killings. We believe that States have a duty to operate according to the law and to respect that way of life that terrorists seek to destroy.”

Mr Martin said he very much wanted Ireland and Israel to enjoy productive bilateral relations. “Even more, I want to see Israelis living in peace and prosperity in a state recognised by its neighbours.”

But he said the Government and the “vast majority of the Irish people disagree with certain policies pursued by the Israeli government, particularly in its relations with the occupied Palestinian territories”.

“I will not hesitate to express criticism of such policies where I believe this is warranted and where the policies in question, such as the current blockade of Gaza, are inimical to the achievement of a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a comprehensive overall settlement in the Middle East.”

In a statement, the Israeli embassy said the ambassador Dr Zion Evrony was invited this morning to a meeting with David Cooney, secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"At this meeting, Ambassador Evrony was informed of the decision of the Irish government. Israel regrets this decision.

"We believe that it does not reflect the overall positive relations which exist between Ireland and Israel."