Secret filming has revealed a senior political officer in the Israeli Embassy talking about how he would like to “take down” UK foreign office minister Alan Duncan, a vocal opponent of illegal Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
In the footage senior political officer at the Israeli embassy Shai Masot, says Duncan was causing “a lot of problems”. He also called Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, “an idiot”.
In 2014 Duncan said that while he fully supports Israel’s right to exist, he believes settlements on occupied Palestinian land represent an “ever-deepening stain on the face of the globe”. He also likened the situation in Hebron in the occupied West Bank to apartheid.
The revelation came from a secretly captured film during a six-month undercover operation by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.
In it, Masot is in conversation with Maria Strizzolo, who was then chief of staff to MP Robert Halfon, the deputy chairman of the ruling Conservative Party, and asks her if he could give her some names of MPs he would suggest she “take down”.
Strizzolo later hinted that “a little scandal” might see Duncan dismissed.
In a separate conversation with the embassy staffer, Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, was described as being “on the hit list” for his views which were “strongly pro-Arab rather than pro-Israel”.
The leaked footage has caused controversy, with former Conservative minister and parliamentary aide to former prime minister David Cameron, Desmond Swayne, calling for the incident to be “investigated thoroughly”.
“What we cannot have is Israel acting in the UK with the same impunity it enjoys in Palestine,” he told Middle East Eye. “This is clearly interference in another country’s politics of the murkiest and most discreditable kind.”
In a statement on Saturday night, the Israeli embassy said that Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, had spoken to Duncan to apologise and that Regev had made clear that the embassy considered the remarks to be “completely unacceptable”.
Strizzolo, while advising Al Jazeera‘s undercover reporter Robin, revealed that she had a strategy of manipulation to ensure Israel remains at the top of the UK’s foreign policy agenda.
“If at least you can get a small group of MPs that you know you can always rely on, when there is something coming to parliament and you know you brief them, you say: ‘you don’t have to do anything, we are going to give you the speech, we are going to give you all the information, we are going to do everything for you’,” she said.
Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev has made a full apology to Sir Alan for Masot’s ‘completely unacceptable’ comments.