NOTE: This posting has been extensively revised since it was first put up on Sunday evening
This posting has these items:
1) Al Jazeera: Israel apology after plot against UK politicians;the publication’s investigative unit got the incriminating video last October.
2) Guardian: Israeli diplomat who plotted against MPs also set up political groups, the fullest account so far by Ewen MacAskill and Ian Cobain;
3) Guardian: Why might an Israeli diplomat believe Alan Duncan needs ‘taking down’? Diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour on why, and what happens next;
4) The Independent: cIsraeli embassy official filmed discussing how to ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan and other pro-Palestinian MPs, plus photo caption on May’s dilemma;
5) Mail Online: Israel plot to ‘take down’ Tory minister: Astonishing undercover video captures diplomat conspiring with rival MP’s aide to smear Deputy Foreign Secretary,the piece that launched the scandal;
Shai Masot, senior political officer at the Israeli embassy. Al Jazeera photo.
Israel apology after plot against UK politicians
Al Jazeera reveals discussions of Israeli diplomat and UK civil servant to ‘take down’ anti-settlement politicians.
Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit uncovers Israel’s covert influence campaign in Britain
Investigation involved six-month undercover infiltration of anti-boycott campaign
Discussions between Israeli diplomat and British civil servant to ‘take down’ politicians revealed
By Al Jazeera Investigative Unit
January 08, 2017
The Israeli embassy has apologised to UK Deputy Foreign Secretary Sir Alan Duncan for comments made by one of its staff members on plans “to take [him] down” due to his criticism of Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.
The comments, made by senior political officer at the Israeli embassy Shai Masot, were secretly captured on film during a six-month undercover operation by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, which reveals plots by the Israeli diplomat and a British civil servant to destroy the careers of senior politicians.
Maria Strizzolo gives Masot the names of MPs Israel could ‘take down’. Strizzolo, a former parliamentary assistant to junior education minister Robert Halfon, has now resigned after the release of undercover footage in which she is seen discussing ways to “take out” deputy foreign minister Alan Duncan.
In a conversation with Maria Strizzolo, who was then chief of staff to MP Robert Halfon, the deputy chairman of the ruling Conservative Party, Masot asked her if he could give her some names of MPs he would suggest she “take down”.
Masot named Duncan, who in 2014 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.
Strizzolo later hinted that “a little scandal” might see Duncan dismissed.
At the same dinner table conversation, Masot described British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Duncan’s boss, as an “idiot … without any kind of responsibilities”, while Strizzolo said he was “solid on Israel”.
Duncan was the first sitting Conservative MP to voluntarily acknowledge that he is gay (in a 2002 interview with The Times) thus removing one of the ways in which he might have been taken down. Duncan is said to be ‘a close ally’ of PM May appointing him as ‘idiot’ Boris Johnson’s deputy. The Daily Mail suggests she installed him at the Foreign Office to keep an eye on Mr Johnson.
Since the announcement by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit of its findings – and the international media coverage that followed – the Israeli embassy tweeted a response saying that Masot would be “ending his term shortly”, adding that Mark Regev, ambassador of Israel to the UK, had apologised to Duncan “and made clear that the embassy considered the remarks to be completely unacceptable”.
But this latest disclosure is just one among the Investigative Unit’s many findings, which will be revealed in a four-part series “The Lobby” that will be broadcast daily on Al Jazeera from January 15 at 22:30 GMT.
The undercover investigation reveals how the Israeli government is in the midst of a brazen, covert influence campaign in Britain.
For half a year, Robin (alias), an undercover reporter working with Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, met with members of Britain’s lobby network that enjoys strong support from the Israeli government by way of the Israeli embassy in London.
Robin posed as a graduate activist with strong sympathies towards Israel who was keen to help combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement prominent in Britain.
Shaping foreign policy agenda
Strizzolo, while advising 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.
She also advised trying to infiltrate Prime Minster’s Questions, a weekly session in which the leader of the country answers questions from MPs. The debate is televised live.
“If they already have the question to table for PMQs [Prime Minister’s Questions], it’s harder to say: ‘No, no, no, I won’t do it’,” she said.
Strizzolo then boasted how her own efforts once made an immediate impact on the national debate.
While in Israel with the Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary group in 2014, she persuaded MP Halfon to question the prime minster in public over three missing teenagers believed to have been kidnapped and murdered “to get a response from the government”, Strizzolo said.
Halfon took the request and called on former prime minister David Cameron to support the Israeli government, which he said should do “everything possible to take out Hamas terrorist networks”.
In response, Cameron promised that Britain would “stand by Israel”.
Al Jazeera Investigative Unit’s series “The Lobby” can be viewed on Al Jazeera at the following times:
Episode One – Sunday, January 15: 22:30 GMT
Episode Two – Monday, January 16, 22:30 GMT
Episode Three – Tuesday, January 17, 22:30 GMT
Episode Four – Wednesday, January 18, 22:30 GMT
The series will also be available online .
Shai Masot is filmed covertly as he boasts about establishing several groups, at least one intended to influence Labour policy
By Ewen MacAskill and Ian Cobain, The Guardian
January 08/09, 2017
An Israeli embassy official who plotted to “take down” MPs regarded as hostile has also set up a number of political organisations in the UK that operated as though entirely independent.
Shai Masot was filmed covertly as he boasted about establishing several groups, at least one of which was intended to influence Labour party policy, while appearing to obscure their links to Israel.
The disclosure comes as Labour demanded the government launch an immediate inquiry into “improper interference in our democratic politics”. A former Tory government minister also called for an inquiry into the Israeli embassy’s links with two organisations, Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI).
Meanwhile, Masot is being sent back to Israel in disgrace, and a civil servant and Conservative official who was also filmed discussing ways to discredit MPs has resigned from her post.
Masot and Maria Strizzolo, a manager with the Skills Funding Agency and aide to Robert Halfon, an education minister, were filmed by a man they knew as Robin, who they believed to be an LFI activist but who was actually an undercover reporter with al-Jazeera’s investigative unit.
Among the MPs that Masot and Strizzolo discussed “taking down” was Sir Alan Duncan, a foreign minister and a vocal supporter of a Palestinian state.
In the latest recordings, Masot boasts of establishing organisations “in Israel and here [in the UK]”. When asked what he means, the Israeli official replies: “Nothing I can share, but yeah,” adding: “Yeah, because there are things that, you know, happen, but it’s good to leave those organisations independent. But we help them, actually.”
LFI and CFI are established organisations, founded in the 1950s and 1970s respectively to support Israel and combat antisemitism. The footage taken by al-Jazeera shows Masot wanted Robin to head up a new organisation, Young Labour Friends of Israel.
At a meeting last July, Masot explains that he had the idea for a group called Young Conservative Friends of Israel in 2015, and wanted to set up a Young Labour Friends of Israel at that time. “When I tried to do the same in Labour they had a crisis back then with Corbyn. So instead of that I took a delegation to Israel … I took a Fabians group to Israel,” he says.
Masot also says in the footage of that meeting that he does not wish to see Jeremy Corbyn win the leadership contest with Owen Smith. During another meeting, he describes Corbyn as “a crazy leader”.
Masot advised Robin that he should launch the Young Labour Friends of Israel by first organising a reception, and then setting up an email list. LFI needs to be rejuvenated by a new youth group, he adds.
“Not a lot of young people want to be affiliated. For years, every MP that joined the parliament joined the LFI. They’re not doing it any more in the Labour party. CFI, they’re doing it automatically. All the 14 new MPs who got elected in the last elections did it automatically. In the LFI it didn’t happen. We need to get more people on board. It’s a lot of work, actually.”
At a meeting the following month, Masot suggests Robin might want to be chairman of the group he is establishing. He also says Robin should not tell other people that the embassy has established the group. “LFI is an independent organisation. No one likes that someone is managing his organisation. That really is the first rule in politics.”
In September, while on a train to Liverpool for the Labour conference, Masot tells Robin he is also establishing a group called City Friends of Israel. Once in Liverpool, the footage shows Masot introducing Robin at conference social events as the “Young LFI chairman”.
The disclosure that Masot was also attempting to influence Labour affairs by establishing new political groups is likely to enrage the party’s leaders, who have already characterised the threat to “take down” MPs as a serious national security issue.
The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, said: “The exposure of an Israeli embassy official discussing how to bring down or discredit a government minister and other MPs because of their views on the Middle East is extremely disturbing.
“This is a national security issue. The embassy official involved should be withdrawn and the government should launch an immediate inquiry into the extent of this improper interference and demand from the Israeli government that it be brought to an end.”
One former minister in David Cameron’s government said the embassy’s efforts to exert improper influence on British public life went far further than any plot to “take down” unhelpful members of parliament.
Writing anonymously in the Mail on Sunday, the former minister said: “British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence at the heart of our politics, and those in authority have ignored what is going on
“For years the CFI and LFI have worked with – even for – the Israeli embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK government policy and the actions of ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.”
The former minister said there needed to be a full inquiry into the Israeli embassy’s links with CFI and LFI, and that while political parties should welcome funding from the UK’s Jewish community, they should not accept any engagement linked to Israel until it ceases new developments on Palestinian land.
“This opaque funding and underhand conduct is a national disgrace and humiliation and must be stamped out,” he wrote.
After an apology from the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, the British government said it considered the matter closed. However, Alex Salmond, the Scottish National party’s foreign affairs spokesman, said this position was not acceptable.
“I would expect the UK government to fully investigate this matter so that we can be confident our elected officials are free to carry out their jobs to the best of their ability and without fear of having their reputation smeared by embassy officials who do not agree with their views.”
Masot’s precise role at the embassy is unclear. He is known to be a former officer in the Israeli navy and is thought to remain an employee of the Israeli defence ministry. His embassy business card describes him as a senior political officer, but the embassy says he is not a diplomat.
In his LinkedIn profile, Masot says his work includes “founding several political support groups in the UK to maximise the Israeli ‘firewall’”. He also says he helped to secure “adjustments to legislation” in the UK.
Former diplomats said Masot was highly unlikely to be operating without authority. Sir William Patey, a former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan, said: “The idea that he would be operating on his own I find fanciful. We know there is a lobby in this country that seeks to portray in the best possible light and seeks to isolate and denigrate critics of Israeli policy.”
A senior Conservative said: “No MP who has taken an active interest in the affairs of the Middle East, not least the central issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will be unaware of the strength of the Israeli lobby. Like Israel itself they are powerful and effective and sail pretty close to the line of what is normally acceptable.”
Figures like Shai Mosat, filmed plotting against MPs, know the foreign minister’s views and Middle East links are influential
By Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic Editor, The Guardian
January 08, 2017
Sir Alan Duncan, the senior Foreign Office minister revealed as the target of an Israeli embassy official’s desire to “take down” British MPs, is responsible on paper for Europe and the Americas, worrying primarily about the Falklands and Cyprus.
But figures like Shai Mosat, the Israeli embassy staffer filmed plotting against MPs, know his views and business connections in the Middle East are strong enough to wield a significant influence across the Foreign Office and Conservative party.
Indeed, when offered a surprise berth in the Foreign Office in the Theresa May reshuffle, there were reports that he might take the Middle East brief. But in the end his oil industry connections and repeated denunciations of Israeli policy on settlements, made him a controversial choice for Downing street.In an era of bland politicians, Duncan, 59, speaks his mind, takes risks and displays a self-confidence few replicate. He was one of the Tories’ early social modernisers, becoming the first Tory MP to reveal he was gay, a revelation that blazed a path that others have followed with greater ease.
In that willingness to be different, there is a touch of Lord Mandelson about him. Waspish, a devastating mimic and shrewd assessor of the daily Westminster scene, he makes enemies as well as allies. His detractors accuse him of hedging his bets, pointing to his preparedness to back either side in the referendum campaign.
Above all, he simply refuses to accept Israel’s policy in the Middle East is defensible. In a landmark speech in 2014 at the Royal United Services Institute he pushed the anti-settlement policy further than any Tory politician, likening the Israeli attitude towards Palestinians to apartheid in South Africa.
He said: “Those that supported settlement policy should be put on a par with racism sexism and xenophobia and antisemitism. Indeed just as we rightly judge someone as unfit for public office if they refuse to recognise Israel, so we should shun anyone who refuses to recognise settlements are illegal.
“No settlement endorsers should be regarded as fit to stand for public office, remain a member of a mainstream political party or sit in a parliament. How can we accept lawmakers in our country or any other country when they support lawbreakers in another? They are extremists and should be treated as such.”
He returned to the theme last summer, a backbencher once again after a period in the Cameron government. In a Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC) pamphlet he argued the settlement crisis had got worse, and the prospects of a just peace only slipped further away.
“In Britain there remains a collective failure to think through not just the words of our policy regarding settlement expansion and a two-state solution, but the consequences of our failure to take a clear and unequivocal moral stance,” he wrote.
“There is a diplomatic vacuum that simply has to be filled if we are going to preserve any sort of process that delivers peace.”
Since he wrote those words, Duncan has joined the Foreign Office; the UN has passed a resolution denouncing the Israeli settlements, John Kerry, the outgoing US secretary of state, has challenged the rightward drift of Israeli policy; and France, without the cooperation of Israel, will convene a Middle East conference in Paris later this month.
Meanwhile, inside the Conservative party, the CMEC has become an increasingly influential voice.
Who knows? All that might unnerve the more extreme Israeli diplomats and make them even believe figures like Duncan need “taking down”. But the reality is that European, let alone British policy, to Israel is not dependent on one or two voluble British ministers. America still calls the shots in Israel.
Duncan, like many others in the Foreign Office, knows Donald Trump is set on reversing the recent direction of American policy. Already Congress has rejected the Obama administration decision to let the UN criticism of Israel to go ahead.
On that estimate Duncan will remain a lonely and largely muzzled voice in the UK government. Theresa May has no intention of running a policy on Israel independent of the US.
Theresa May unexpectedly criticised Kerry’s speech on the grounds that it is “not appropriate” to attack the make-up of a democratically-elected government of an ally, viz Israel’s. So what will she do when that ally plots to change the make-up of the democratically-elected UK government, viz. hers? Photo AFP/Getty
Israeli embassy official filmed discussing how to ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan and other pro-Palestinian MPs
Embassy apologises for Shai Masot’s comments, which include calling Boris Johnson ‘an idiot’
By Lizzie Dearden, The Independent
January 08, 2017
An Israeli embassy official has been caught on camera discussing how to “take down” pro-Palestinian MPs including Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan with a civil servant.
Covert footage taken by Al Jazeera’s investigations unit shows Shai Masot talking with Conservative MP Robert Halfon’s former chief of staff, Maria Strizzolo, at an upmarket restaurant in Kensington in October.
“Can I give you some MPs that I would suggest you would take down?” Mr Masot asks, grinning.
Ms Strizzolo laughs before replying: “Well you know, if you look hard enough I’m sure that there is something that they’re trying to hide.”
Mr Masot says he has “some MPs in mind”, going on to specify the “deputy foreign minister”, referring to Sir Alan, the Conservative MP who serves under Boris Johnson.
“He’s doing a lot of problems,” the Israeli embassy official says, before Ms Strizzolo asks: “I thought we had you know neutralised him a little bit, no?”
Sir Alan sparked criticism from prominent pro-Israel groups in 2014, when he described settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as an “ever-deepening stain on the face of the globe”.
The former International Development Secretary also equated the situation in the divided West Bank city of Hebron to “apartheid”.
Mr Johnson has been less critical, dismissing supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement as “snaggle-toothed lefty academics” in 2015, causing Palestinian charities to cancel a string of planned meetings as the then London Mayor toured Israel and the West Bank.
Mr Masot and Ms Strizzolo agreed that Mr Johnson is “basically good” as Foreign Secretary, citing his public support for the Israeli government, but Mr Masot suggests he is too “busy with everything else” to focus on the issue.
“He is an idiot but so far he became the minister of foreign affairs without any responsibilities,” he continues. “So technically if something real happens, it won’t be his fault…it will be Alan Duncan.”
The third person at the table in October was a man known as “Robin”, who posed as a representative of the Labour Friends of Israel group while working as an undercover reporter.
The Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, has spoken with Sir Alan to apologise for the “completely unacceptable” comments.
The embassy sought to play down the incident as the footage was broadcast on Saturday night, describing Mr Masot as a “junior embassy employee”, who is not a diplomat.
His business card describes him as “a senior political officer”, while his LinkedIn page lists him as having worked for the embassy since November 2014.
Mr Masot says he was Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) major between 2004 and 2011 and describes himself as the chief point of contact between the embassy and MPs, liaising with ministers and officials at the Foreign Office.
“The Embassy of Israel rejects the remarks concerning Minister Duncan, which are completely unacceptable; the comments were made by a junior embassy employee who is not an Israeli diplomat, and who will be ending his term of employment with the embassy shortly,” said a statement from the embassy’s spokesman.
“Ambassador Regev on Friday spoke with Minister Duncan, apologised for the comments and made clear that the embassy considered the remarks to be completely unacceptable.”
• Israeli Embassy made vow to ‘take down’ Foreign Office deputy Sir Alan Duncan
• Bombshell footage covertly filmed in restaurant, obtained by Mail on Sunday
• Senior diplomat is egged on by a senior aide to another Conservative Minister
By Simon Walters Political Editor for The Mail On Sunday
January 07/08, 2017
The Israeli Embassy made a shocking vow to ‘take down’ Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office deputy, a secret film reveals today.
The bombshell footage, covertly filmed in a London restaurant and obtained by The Mail on Sunday, shows a senior diplomat making the astonishing threat to target Sir Alan Duncan.
Extraordinarily, he is egged on by a senior aide to another Conservative Minister, Robert Halfon.
The video comes in a film claiming to expose the way that the Israeli government has ‘infiltrated’ both the Conservative and Labour parties via its embassy in the UK, using secret cash and covert support.
Further footage shows the Israeli diplomat, intelligence expert Shai Masot, telling senior Labour MP Joan Ryan that he has obtained ‘more than £1 million’ to pay for sympathetic Labour MPs to visit Israel.
Mr Masot also mocks ‘crazy’Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his ‘weirdo’ supporters. Footage shows pro-Israel Labour activists discussing the Jerusalem government’s secret role in backing their activities.
Last night it emerged that Israeli ambassador Mark Regev had made a full apology to Sir Alan for Mr Masot’s ‘completely unacceptable’ comments.
And a spokesman for Boris Johnson said: ‘The Israeli ambassador has apologised and made it clear to us that these comments do not represent the views of the Israeli Embassy or government.’
The revelations follow Tory infighting over the party’s policy on the Israel-Palestine dispute, and repeated claims of antisemitism among Labour’s Leftwing ‘Corbynistas’.
Israeli intelligence expert Shai Masot openly spoke about the plot during a recent dinner at the Aubaine restaurant
Senior Tory MPs have condemned the apparent threat to ‘take down’ Sir Alan – who has been critical of Israel and who is described in the secret footage as causing ‘problems’ – and called for a Downing Street inquiry.
Former Tory Minister Sir Desmond Swayne condemned Mr Masot’s ‘disgraceful’ comments, adding: ‘To talk of “taking down” a British Minister is very sinister.
‘There is anger in the US at Russia’s meddling in its democratic process and no such foreign meddling should be allowed in the UK.’
He was backed by Crispin Blunt, Conservative chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who is also targeted by Masot in the film. He called the alleged comments about Sir Alan ‘outrageous’.
The disclosures are in a film made by the investigative unit of the Qataribased Al Jazeera TV company, which claims to show how the Israeli Government has ‘infiltrated’ the Conservative and Labour parties.
But Lord Stuart Polak, senior director, of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), said last night: ‘It is utter nonsense to assert that any UK political party is taken over by any organisation.
‘The Friends of Israel groups do their job of educating their members about the complicated issues in the Middle East. The Israeli Embassy represents Israel in a professional manner.
‘To suggest they are involved in anything sinister is poppycock.’
One pundit claimed that Britain’s recent support for a UN Security Council vote condemning Jewish settlements on the West Bank undermined the claim that the pro-Israeli lobby dictates UK foreign policy.
However, days after the vote, Theresa May angered Palestinian supporters by attacking US Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim that the current Israeli Government is the ‘most Right-wing in its history’.
An undercover reporter and hidden cameras tracked Mr Masot across Britain as he held secret talks with figures from CFI and its Labour counterpart (LFI).
His apparent threat to ‘take down’ Sir Alan was made a month later at the Aubaine restaurant, directly opposite the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, West London, where Masot is based.
Also present was Maria Strizzolo, senior aide to Education Minister Robert Halfon, former political director of CFI.
After Ms Strizzolo boasts about her role in making Halfon a successful Minister, Mr Masot asks her: ‘That’s obvious, but can you do the opposite stuff as well?
Can I give you some names of MPs? Duncan is doing a lot of problems
Can I give you some names of MPs that I would suggest you take down?’
When Ms Strizzolo replies that all MPs ‘have something they’re trying to hide,’ Mr Masot says: ‘I have some MPs’ and tells the undercover reporter: ‘She knows which MPs I want to take down… the Deputy Foreign Minister [Duncan].’
He says Sir Alan – a well-known critic of Israel, and Boris Johnson’s second-incommand – is ‘doing a lot of problems’.
He appears to suggest that Sir Alan is more powerful because Johnson ‘is an idiot with no responsibilities. If something real happened… it will be Duncan.’
Strizzolo says Sir Alan is ‘impossible to rebuff’ and has powerful ‘friends and claims that in a bitter clash over Israel with her boss, Sir Alan ‘threatened to destroy’ Mr Halfon.
‘Rob told the Whips and they told him [Halfon] to calm down,’ she says. Strizzolo then suggests: ‘A little scandal maybe?’ adding: ‘Don’t tell anyone about this meeting.’
The Israeli diplomat targeted pro-Palestinian Deputy Foreign Secretary Sir Alan Duncan, not ‘idiot’ Boris Johnson
Ambitious Mr Masot’s CV has the hallmarks of a spy: he spent eight years in the Israeli Navy’s ‘Special Unit’, has a degree in International Affairs, worked in Israeli Defence intelligence, has the rank of major and recently applied to run Israeli Foreign Affairs intelligence.
He says that he is ‘not a career diplomat’ and came to the UK ‘to take care of specific political issues – that’s what I do’.
Mr Masot also says he missed out on a job in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, joking: ‘It was a huge fight… me and another candidate… I tried to kill him but it didn’t work.’
In a discussion about other ‘pro Arab’ Tory MPs, Mr Masot refers to Crispin Blunt, who, like Sir Alan, has criticised Israel.
Ms Strizzolo chips in: ‘On the hit list? Yeah!’ adding she ‘cannot stand [‘pro-Arab Tories’] – they’re horrible people… the two go together.’
CAUGHT ON FILM AT DINNER
Mario Strizzolo is an aide to Robert Halfon
Robert Halfon, ex-political director of Conservative Friends of Israel
Mario Strizzolo is an aide to Robert Halfon, ex-political director of Conservative Friends of Israel
The target and his ‘idiot’ boss: The Israeli diplomat targeted pro-Palestinian Deputy Foreign Secretary Sir Alan Duncan, not ‘idiot’ Boris Johnson
The Israeli agent provocateur: The diplomat Shai Masot, pictured at the Labour conference with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev, says he ‘takes care of political issues’
The fixer with a score to settle: Mario Strizzolo is an aide to Robert Halfon, ex-political director of Conservative Friends of Israel, who had a bust-up with Alan Duncan
‘Arab apologists,’ comments Mr Masot.
Both Mr Halfon and Ms Strizzolo are prominent supporters of Conservative Friends of Israel.
Shortly after Mr Halfon was made an Education Minister by Theresa May last year, Ms Strizzolo, his former Commons chief of staff, became a civil servant at the Education Department and continues to work part-time for him at the Commons.
In the film, she boasts of how she and the CFI ensure Tory MPs offer vocal support for Israel, for example by preparing public statements for them.
‘If you do everything for them it’s harder for them to say, “I don’t have the time… I won’t do it,” ’ she said.
She says she phoned Mr Halfon from Israel and ‘convinced’ him to ask a question to David Cameron in support of Israel in Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons in 2014.
When Mr Masot asks: ‘Did he do it?’, Ms Strizzolo replies: ‘Yeah, and [obtained] a Government statement.’
The film also shows how Mr Masot had intensive contact with pro-Israel Labour figures and discussed extra funding for LFI at the party’s conference in Liverpool in September.
The diplomat Shai Masot, on the right of this picture taken at the Labour conference with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev, says he ‘takes care of political issues’
He tells the group’s chairman, Ms Ryan, of plans for ‘another delegation of LFI activists’ to visit Israel.
Ms Ryan responds: ‘That’d be good. What happened with the names we put in to the embassy, Shai?’
Masot: ‘We’ve got the money, more than £1 million, it’s a lot of money.’
Ryan: ‘It must be.’
Masot: ‘I have got it from Israel. It is an approval.’
Ryan: ‘I didn’t think you had it in your bag!’
Last night, Ms Ryan said the claims in the film were ‘rubbish.’
Mr Halfon and the Israeli embassy declined to comment.
Ms Strizzolo said last night her conversation with Masot was ‘tongue-in-cheek and gossipy’, adding: ‘Any suggestion that I… could exert the type of influence you are suggesting is risible.’
She knew Mr Masot ‘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.’
Sir Alan also declined to comment.
The Lobby series will be shown on Al Jazeera’s English channel from January 15.
‘LOOK HARD ENOUGH AND I’M SURE THERE IS SOMETHING THEY’RE TRYING TO HIDE’
Edited transcript of meeting between Shai Masot (M), senior political officer, Israeli Embassy, London, Maria Strizzolo (S), leading pro-Israel Tory activist and an aide to Conservative Minister Robert Halfon, and an undercover reporter (R).
M: Can I give you names of MPs I suggest you take down?
S: If you look hard enough I’m sure there’s something they’re trying to hide.
M: Yeah. I have some MPs.
S: Let’s talk about it.
M: She knows which MPs I want to take down.
S: Yeah, it’s good to remind me.
M: The Deputy Foreign Minister [Duncan].
S: You still want to go for it?
M: …He’s doing a lot of problems.
M: Really. It sounds like a conspiracy.
S: I thought you had neutralised it a little bit?
M: No. Boris. He’s basically good.
S: He’s solid on Israel.
M: Yeah. He just doesn’t care. He is an idiot but has become Minister of Foreign Affairs without any responsibilities. If something real happened it won’t be his fault… it will be Alan Duncan.
Duncan is impossible to rebuff… he has a lot of friends.
S: Years ago, Rob [Halfon] was asking questions in Parliament about terrorist salaries…
M: When he [Duncan] was a DFID minister?
S: Yeah. He [Duncan] told him [Halfon]: if you don’t stop this I’m going to destroy you and all of that s***. Rob told the Whips and they told him to calm down. So never say never.
M: Never say never, yeah but…
S: A little scandal maybe? Don’t tell anyone about this meeting.
M: Who would we tell? Masot and Strizzolo on ‘horrible anti-Israel’ Tory MPs.
M: Crispin Blunt [chairman of Commons Foreign Affairs committee]. Those are people you…
S: …On the hit list? Yeah!
M. I don’t have any problems with them.
S: Some super pro-Arabist [Tory MPs]… I can’t stand [them], They’re horrible people – the two go together.
‘Poisonous conduct is a disgrace’: Minister who served in David Cameron’s government says it is time to end the problem of Israel buying UK policy
Last month Theresa May, like David Cameron each year before her, spoke to the annual lunch of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI).
She oozed praise for Israel as a democracy, spoke of the constant terrorist threat they face, and condemned the way that Palestinians supposedly incite violence and anti-Semitism.
Her own policy that considers Israeli settlements on Palestinian land illegal received only a passing mention.
The reason is clear: the Conservative Party wants pro-Israel donors’ money, and principle in the Government’s foreign policy has been relegated.
Matters deteriorated further over Christmas after US Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful condemnation of the extremism and conduct of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government.
Instead of agreeing with his comments – which are identical to her own policy – she criticised Kerry.
Behind this inconsistent and concerning attitude lies a serious and troubling problem. British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence at the heart of our politics, and those in authority have ignored what is going on.
For years the CFI and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), have worked with – even for – the Israeli government and their London embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK Government policy and the actions of Ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.
Lots of countries try to force their views on others, but what is scandalous in the UK is that instead of resisting it, successive Governments have submitted to it, taken donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of Ministers.
Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination.
The CFI is not affiliated to the Conservative Party. It is incorporated in a way that means it is not to transparent about donors. Yet it arranges for the support of MPs and funds regular visits to Israel which distort the truth. Cameron turned a blind eye to Israeli misconduct – if he ever cared about it – because he was persuaded any criticism would reduce Party donations.
It now seems clear people in the Conservative and Labour Parties have been working with the Israeli embassy which has used them to demonise and trash MPs who criticise Israel; an army of Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament.
This is politically corrupt, and diplomatically indefensible. The conduct of certain MPs needs to be exposed as the poisonous and deceitful infiltration of our politics by the unwitting agents of another country, which acts in defiance of international law, and whose government Kerry called its most extreme ever.
We need a full inquiry into the Israeli Embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI, and an undertaking from all political parties that they welcome the financial and political support of the UK Jewish community, but won’t accept any engagement linked to Israel until it stops building illegally on Palestinian land.
This opaque funding and underhand conduct is a national disgrace and humiliation and must be stamped out.