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Disgraced diplomat Shai Masot resigns from Israeli foreign ministry

Spokesman tells MEE former political officer at London embassy will 'not have any contact with the Ministry for Strategic Affairs in the near future'
Screengrab from Al-Jazeera's investigation on Israel lobby in Britain (Screengrab)

An Israeli embassy official in London who was caught on camera talking about "taking down" a British government minister has resigned, a spokesperson for Israel's foreign ministry told Middle East Eye on Friday.

The spokesperson also confirmed that Masot had been working for the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, a controversial ministry tasked with countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, seemingly contradicting the Israeli embassy in London's claim that he had been a junior employee.

The deputy spokesman of the Israeli foreign ministry confirmed to MEE that Masot resigned three days ago from his post in London.

Speaking from Israel, the spokesman told MEE: "Masot resigned three days ago and I want to emphasise that Masot will not have any contact with the Ministry for Strategic Affairs in the near future."

The spokesman also added: "We consider that this scandal is now done and behind us."

Masot, who worked at the embassy as a senior political officer, also boasted of setting up political youth organisations in the UK to promote Israeli interests and talked about a "hit list" of MPs, also featuring Crispin Blunt, the chair of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee.

The embassy sought to distance itself from Masot's activities, describing his comments as unacceptable.

READ: Shai Masot, the Israeli Machiavelli caught in the act

Masot told an undercover Al Jazeera reporter known as "Robin" about the frustration he faced while working as the senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London.

"When something good happens you get no credit because there is the ambassador and the deputy ambassador," said Masot. "If something bad happens it's because you f***ed up and everyone then throws you under the water."

Earlier this week, an Al Jazeera investigation revealed footage from last year of Masot describing how he had worked to set up political groups in the UK such as the Young Conservative Friends of Israel and various other organisations.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry also pushed for an inquiry into the Masot scandal after numerous outlets including Middle East Eye revealed Masot's plot to take down British MPs who were pro-Palestinian.

Prior to his role as senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, Masot served in the Israeli navy for eight years rising to the rank of major. 

In comments made in the undercover recordings, Masot says he gained a masters degree in international relations, and then worked for the defence ministry in Israel for two years before moving to the embassy in London.

Despite being on record on the recordings as saying he was not a "career diplomat", Masot soon ingratiated himself into senior circles in all of the major British political parties.

READ: Israel embassy plot: Labour pushes for inquiry into Shai Masot scandal

He attended various meetings, including talks as a "diplomat" and "political officer" in November 2015 with members of the Conservative Muslim Forum. Also present was Eitan Naeh, the charge d'affaires of the Israeli embassy at the time who was working in the stead of a soon-to-be appointed new ambassador.

Masot was pictured with members of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel during the same month.

In July of last year, after the appointment of Mark Regev to the top job at the embassy, Masot was featured in pictures of another meeting at the Conservative Muslim Forum, this time as "senior political officer".

He was also pictured with Regev at a meeting at the Labour Party conference last year.

But it is his relationship with Maria Strizzolo, a former parliamentary assistant to the Conservative MP Robert Halfon, and their conversation about "taking down" British MPs, that proved his undoing. 

In the most damning section of leaked tapes of their conversation in October last year, Masot asks: "Can I give you some MPs that you can take down?"

"Well you know, if you look hard enough I’m sure that there is something they are trying to hide."

Masot said: "Yeah, I have some MPs."

Strizzolo said: "Let’s talk about it."

Masot: "The deputy foreign minister." [This is a reference to Alan Duncan]

"You still want to go for it?"

Masot’s reply is ambiguous but he said Duncan was "causing problems". Strizzolo asks: "I thought we had, you know, neutralised him just a little bit, no?" Masot answered: "No."

Strizzolo told the Guardian: "Shai Masot is someone I know purely socially and as a friend. He is not someone with whom I have ever worked or had any political dealings beyond chatting about politics, as millions of people do, in a social context."

She later resigned from her civil servant position at Britain's education ministry - a job she only recently started.

Regev and the Israeli embassy also distanced themselves from Masot. The embassy said he was not a "political officer", as he and others described him - he was now a "junior member" of staff.

"The comments were made by a junior embassy employee who is not an Israeli diplomat," said an embassy statement on Saturday. Masot, it said, "will be ending his term of employment with the embassy shortly."

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