Israeli official expelled over use of fake passports

 

THE GOVERNMENT has decided to expel an official at the Israeli embassy in Dublin in protest over the use of forged Irish passports by suspects in the killing of a Hamas official in Dubai.

The decision was agreed by Cabinet yesterday following a recommendation by Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin on the foot of investigations by the Garda and the Passport Office. The alleged killers of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh used eight forged Irish passports.

Dubai police have accused Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad of orchestrating the assassination using fraudulent British, Irish, French, German and Australian passports. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement.

In a statement, Mr Martin said investigations by the UK and Australian authorities concluded that there were “compelling reasons” to believe Israel was responsible for the counterfeiting of passports used by the hit team. Both countries have expelled Israeli embassy officials in protest.

Mr Martin said that while the Irish investigations had discovered “no additional evidence” linking the forged passports to Israel, the fact that fake Irish documentation was used by members of the same team that carried fraudulent British and Australian passports, led to the “inescapable conclusion” that an Israeli government agency was responsible for the “misuse and, most likely, the manufacture” of the forged Irish passports.

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

He stressed that the designated embassy official was 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 added that, in accordance with normal diplomatic practice, he would not disclose the name or function of the official whom the Israeli government has been requested to withdraw.

The Irish Timesunderstands that the individual concerned is a security officer stationed at the embassy.

In a statement, the Israeli embassy said it “regretted” the decision to expel one of its staff. “We believe that it does not reflect the overall positive relations which exist between Ireland and Israel,” it added.

Mr Martin reiterated the Government’s condemnation of the murder of Mr Mabhouh who was found dead in his Dubai hotel room in January.

“As a matter of principle, Ireland opposes extra-judicial killings,” the Minister said. “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.”

Discussing the impact of the passports controversy on bilateral relations between Ireland and Israel, Mr Martin acknowledged that the episode had prompted “profoundly disturbing” conclusions about the conduct of Israeli authorities, which were “seriously detrimental” to the kind of relationship the Government would like to have with Israel.

“The Irish Government wants a relationship . . . which is characterised by mutual trust and respect,” he added. “I hope that . . . both countries will eventually be able to move past this incident and that such unfriendly actions damaging to overall relations are not repeated.”