A senior Israeli embassy official in London has been caught on camera saying he plotted to “take down” British MPs sympathetic to Palestine, including Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan.
Shai Masot, a senior political officer at the Israeli regime embassy in London, who also describes himself as an Israeli military officer, made the threats about several British lawmakers during an undercover sting scheme by an Al Jazeera investigative unit, according to a Guardian report on Saturday.
Masot declined to comment or elaborate on what he meant when he said he wanted to “take down” a number of British lawmakers.
Masot had been speaking to Maria Strizzolo, a civil servant who was formerly an aide to another Conservative minister. Also present during the recorded conversation was ‘Robin’ – a man whom they thought to be working for Labor Friends of Israel — a political pressure group, but in fact, Robin was an undercover reporter.
While discussing with Masot about ways to discredit British MPs not friendly to Israel, Strizzolo said, “Well, you know, if you look hard enough, I’m sure that there is something that they’re trying to hide.” Later she added, “A little scandal, maybe.”
During the conversation back in October, Strizzolo further boasted that she had helped to secure a promotion for her boss, Conservative MP Robert Halfon.
According to the daily, she had been Haflon’s chief of staff when he was deputy chair of the Conservative Party. Last year, Halfon was appointed as education minister and Strizzolo was appointed as a senior manager at the Skills Funding Agency. She continues to work part-time for Halfon.
In the footage, Masot agreed that Strizzolo had assisted Halfon and then asked her if she could also achieve the opposite effect. “Can I give you some MPs that I would suggest you would take down?” he asked, according to the report. He went on to state that she knew which MPs he was referring to.
The conversation, the report added, then turned to Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, whom Strizzolo described as “solid on Israel.” Masot agreed but noted that Johnson just did not care. “You know he is an idiot …” Masot said.
According to the daily, other prominent Conservatives identified during the conversation included Crispin Blunt, chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who is also a prominent supporter of Palestinians.
Blunt was cited in the report as describing the remarks by the Israeli diplomat in London as “formally outrageous and deserving of investigation.”
In another conversation, the report noted, Masot agreed that Blunt was among the British MPs that were “strongly pro-Arab rather than pro-Israel,” as Strizzolo referred to him as being on a “hit list.”
The British daily goes on to clarify that although the Israeli embassy insists Masot was a junior embassy official and not a diplomat, his business card describes him as “a senior political officer” and his LinkedIn page lists him as having worked for the embassy since November 2014.
Masot also describes his work as being the chief point of contact between the embassy and British MPs and liaising with ministers and officials at the Foreign Office.
He further depicts himself as having been a major in the Israeli military between 2004 and 2011 – serving part of that time on a patrol boat off Gaza – and still employed by the Israeli forces as deputy head of the international organizations sector.
According to the report, the sting operation — which began in June and ran through last November — recorded conversations on a number occasions that include a wide range of pro-Israeli activists as well as British politicians and Israeli embassy staff.
The recordings form the basis of four half-hour documentaries that Al Jazeera is to broadcast from January 15.
Meanwhile, a Foreign Office spokesman was quoted in the report as saying, “The Israeli ambassador has apologized and is clear these comments do not reflect the views of the embassy… The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.”