Kim Sengupta: Israelis have been expelled before – and will be again

Share
Related Topics

The expulsion of the "senior diplomat" from the Israeli embassy – Mossad's head of station in Britain – marks a serious dip in relations between the two countries, especially at a time when intelligence-sharing on Islamist terrorism is at a premium.

Britain has effectively accused the Israelis of carrying out the assassination of the Hamas commander, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, despite the Foreign Office's protestations to the contrary. And in future, this could have legal repercussions for Israeli politicians visiting the UK.

It is not, however, the first time that an Israeli official has been told to leave the country or the first time that British documents have been used by Mossad. And, with the cavalier attitude displayed towards its allies by the Jewish state and its intelligence service on foreign policy matters, it is unlikely to be the last.

The issue of passports has come up before. In 1986, eight forged UK passports were found in an Israeli embassy diplomatic pouch in a German telephone box. The Israeli government subsequently promised not to use British travel documents again on clandestine missions.

However, the following year a Palestinian acting as an Israeli double agent was arrested in Hull with a cache of weapons, waiting to be used in his role as an agent provocateur. An irate Margaret Thatcher ordered the shutting down of Mossad operations in this country and Arie Regev, the then chief of the service in London, was ordered to leave.

The relationship, and intelligence-sharing, was resumed after a suitable interval and, even in that time, material relating to matters of life and death were passed between the two countries through the Americans. But on this occasion it is the US that is believed to have encouraged the UK to take a tough stance with the Israelis – a result of Washington's exasperation with the Netanyahu government over the building of Jewish housing in Arab east Jerusalem.

Information-sharing will resume in the future. But what has happened highlights broader issues about the way Mossad operates. The Israeli intelligence service may not care overmuch about the consternation caused by its use of passports from friendly countries, but the way the assassination was carried out has been viewed by Western intelligence as amateurish, with Israeli agents leaving a trail of photographs and documents that could identify them.

This was the latest in a number of Mossad missions deemed to have been flawed. And it is this weakness, rather than the anger of Britain and other countries, which may curtail the tenure of Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad's external arm. If that happens, London and Washington can pretend it was indeed their pressure which led to his dismissal.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week