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Israeli embassy scandal: Jeremy Corbyn demands official inquiry

In letter to the PM, opposition leader says plots by Israeli official to 'take down' senior ministers are a 'national security issue'
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party (AFP)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to UK prime minister Theresa May demanding an inquiry into a scandal over undue influence exerted by the Israeli embassy over Westminster.

In a letter shared with the press on Friday night and seen by MEE, Corbyn says the alleged plots by an Israeli embassy official to "take down" a senior government minister represent an attempt to "undermine the integrity of our democracy."

Shai Masot, who worked for the Israeli embassy in London as well as Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs before resigning on Thursday, was caught on tape by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter discussing how to "take down" Alan Duncan, a senior member of the British government who is also an outspoken critic of Israeli settlement building.

READ: Disgraced diplomat Shai Masot resigns from Israeli foreign ministry

In his letter, Corbyn writes that "such improper interference in this country's democratic process is unacceptable, whichever country is involved.

"Members of Parliament must have the freedom to hold and express a view, without fear that they could be subject to attempts to discredit them by diplomatic or other representatives of another state."

A copy of the letter, which was shared with the press on Friday night

Despite a wide-ranging scandal after the scandal broke last weekend, UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson - who Masot was heard on tape describing as "an idiot" - said he considers the matter "closed" after the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, publicly apologised.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, also said on Tuesday that he will not investigate the scandal, despite the fact that Maria Strizzolo - a former aide to an MP in the House of Commons - was also implicated in the scandal, and was heard to boast of her success at convincing MPs to ask questions about Israel in the House. 

READ: UK parliament speaker rules out Israeli diplomat investigation

In the letter of complaint - which, unusually, was released to the press due to the "public interest in this important matter" - the leader of the opposition states his "concern" at indiciations that the Foreign Office considers the matter closed. 

"This is clearly a national security issue. I would therefore ask that you treat the matter as such and launch an inquiry into the extent of this improper interference.

"It is only on that basis that Parliament and the public will be reassured that such activities will not be tolerated by your government."

The scandal over the influence the Israeli embassy exerts over domestic UK politics has extended beyond the House of Commons, with officilals also caught on tape discussing lobbying efforts aimed at ousting the leader of the National Union of Students - the first Muslim woman of colour to hold that role - and to set up lobbying groups to discredit Corbyn.

In one of the tapes, recorded by an Al Jazeera journalist posing as a young Labour activist, Masot is heard to describe Corbyn as "crazy".

Masot told the undercover reporter he had set up a youth wing of the Conservative Friends of Israel in 2015 and wanted to do the same inside the Labour Party, but had been unsuccessful because of the “crisis” surrounding Corbyn's election as leader.

Masot also described Corbyn's supporters as "weirdos" and "extremists".

Corbyn is considered supportive of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which Masot elsewhere in the recordings said he had been tasked with discrediting and undermining.

Theresa May's office has as yet made no comment on the demand, but has been approached by MEE for comment.

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