UK parliamentary committee to investigate Israeli lobby scandal
A UK parliamentary committee will investigate a scandal involving a plan by an Israeli diplomat and British parliamentary aide to “take down” the UK's deputy foreign minister, British media reported on Sunday.
The disclosure of the secret investigation carried out by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV station, involving Israeli diplomat Shai Masot, who has close links to Israeli intelligence, and Maria Strizzolo, an aide to the pro-Israeli Tory MP Robert Halfon, made headlines last week.
The scandal is to be investigated by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Tory MP Crispin Blunt, who was also targeted by Masot and Strizzolo.
“I hope to include this matter in the committee’s wider inquiry into the Middle East peace process,” the Mail on Sunday reported Blunt as saying on Sunday.
Blunt described the scandal, revealed in the undercover “sting” by al-Jazeera, as “interference in British politics of the murkiest kind”.
Masot and Strizzolo were fired after a secretly recorded film showed them discussing “taking down” Duncan with “a little scandal” and putting Blunt on a “hit list”.
Strizzolo revealed in the leaked tape that Halfon and Duncan had clashed in the past over the Middle East.
Duncan, who was knighted in 2014 for public service to his country, is one of a tiny number of Conservative members of parliament to have spoken out against the illegal Israeli settlement programme in the West Bank.
He had previously claimed that West Bank settlements were a "wicked cocktail" of illegality and occupation, and suggested that those who supported them should be barred from public office.
In an statement in 2014 he said: "Settlement endorsement should be put on a par with racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. Indeed, just as we quite rightly judge someone unfit for public office if they refuse to recognise Israel, so we should shun anyone who refuses to recognise that settlements are illegal."
Former Tory minister Sir Nicholas Soames also attacked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday over his country’s threat to “take down” Duncan, reported the Mail on Sunday.
“Israel has not heard the last of this. We must make it very clear indeed to Netanyahu and his government that we will not tolerate this kind of outrageous behaviour,” the Mail on Sunday reported Soames as saying.
“Netanyahu would not tolerate a British diplomat acting like that in Israel for a second and he has to be made to understand he cannot do it here either.”
“It is the equivalence of the way Russia use intelligence to suborn democracy in other nations.”
In a parliamentary debate last week, former foreign office minister Sir Hugo Swire called on British foreign minister Boris Jonson to investigate the “serious issues” raised by the report.
Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, has since apologised to Johnson and Duncan.