Israel plot to 'take down' Tory minister: Astonishing undercover video captures diplomat conspiring with rival MP's aide to smear Deputy Foreign Secretary
- 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
Target: Foreign Office deputy Sir Alan Duncan
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 anti-Semitism among Labour’s Leftwing ‘Corbynistas’.
Israeli intelligence expert Shai Masot openly spoke about the plot during a recent dinner
'Don't tell anyone': Mr Mascot, left, and Ms Strizzolo, at their filmed meeting at 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.
The Israeli diplomat, pictured, suggested efforts should be made to target Sir Alan Duncan
The bombshell footage was covertly filmed in this London restaurant and obtained by The Mail on Sunday
Labour MP Joan Ryan was told by the diplomat that she could go on an expenses paid trip to Israel at the meeting
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 (left), not 'idiot' Boris Johnson (right)
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, 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.
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.