Netanyahu's Rift With U.S. And U.K.

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[Global: Middle East]

Just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was preparing to meet President Barack Obama and apologize for having embarrassed Vice President John Biden in Tel Aviv not long ago, things worsened for him when British Foreign Secretary David Miliband expelled a top Mossad --the Israeli Secret Service-- agent from Britain for masterminding the assassination of a top Palestinian commander.

In a statement to the British House of Commons, Miliband said the United Kingdom had evidence that the Israeli Secret Service masterminded the forging of up to15 British and other European passports that Israel’s secret services used to travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to assassinate Mahmud al-Mabhouh, the Palestinian commander who was visiting the Emirates last January. “We have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports,” he said.

Shortly before Miliband addressed the Commons, the Israeli ambassador to London Ron Proser was summoned to the Foreign Office and told of the result of an inquiry by the British Serious and Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) into the murder of al-Mabhouh. The assassins, 12 in number, are said to have used forged passports belonging to citizens of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany Australia and France.

While the British Foreign Secretary named Israeli intelligence services for masterminding the assassination, he stopped short of mentioning the name of the agent he was expelling from the UK. Miliband said investigations by other countries whose passports had also been used by the Israeli assassins, were continuing. Several members of the hit squad believed to have killed al-Mabhouh were found travelling on passports cloned from documents belonging to British and other European citizens.

Given that this was a very sophisticated operation in which high quality forgeries were made, explained Miliband, the Government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a State intelligence service. “Taking this together with other inquiries and the link to Israel established by SOCA, we have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports,” he said

He described as unacceptable the use of passports belonging to 12 British citizens living in Israel to carry out a political assassination. The British citizens, whose passports were used in the murder, have since been issued with new biometric passports that are much harder to counterfeit.

Netanyahu met Tuesday with President Obama during his visit to the United States. The meeting comes not so long after Vice President Biden expressed regret that Israel had announced the construction of more houses on occupied territories moments after Biden had arrived in Tel Aviv, the Israeli capital. While meetings between Israeli leaders and the US President have often been televised and both leaders normally address a press conference, there was no such occasion this time for the Obama-Netanyahu meeting. Neither was there any photo opportunity nor a press conference as is normally the case when world leaders meet US Presidents.

As Israel was getting to grips with the expulsion of one of its diplomats from London and getting a frosty welcome at the White House in Washington, delegates attending a debate on human rights violations in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, expressed anger that during the last 42 years, Israel had pursued a policy of wanton repression in the Occupied Palestinian Territories through the use of disproportionate force, deliberate destruction of infrastructure, killing of civilians and eliminating the religious and cultural heritage of Palestine.

The debate of the Human Rights Council is taking place at the headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. Delegates also observed that the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan was also deteriorating as a result of the Israeli occupation and that Israel was regularly violating the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, those of international law and had also committed crimes against humanity, as highlighted by the Goldstone report.

There was a bitter exchange of words between Israeli and Palestinian delegates in which both accused each other of violating international law and committing crimes against humanity.

Israeli delegate Aharon Leshno-Yaar lamented how for the last 62 years Israel had called upon her neighbors to live in peace, side by side. “Despite that aspiration and the many steps taken to build confidence, conflict and strife continues in much of the region,” he said. He added: “That reality of a continuing conflict had brought suffering to many in the region. The Israelis had felt that pain. Palestinians, too, had suffered and had aspirations for a better future for their families and communities, as did Syrians, seeking development and freedom for better lives and more opportunities.”

In his response, Ibrahim Khraishi, the Palestinian delegate said that the occupation was the main cause of human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “Israel continued its expansion of settlements and illegal construction on Arab land confiscated by force, which could only lead to the suffering of Arab people. The listing of Arab religious sites as Jewish heritage sites further ran counter to efforts to consolidate the values Palestine wished to see achieved,” he said.

Khraishi said Palestine would not go back to negotiations without an immediate and unconditional cessation of all of Israel’s settlement activities. The excavation works and the destruction of houses around Jerusalem also had to be ended immediately.”

Syria’s delegate Faysal Khabbas Hamoui told the HRC meeting that Israel had transformed the Middle East into a "place of tension." Since its inception in 1948, he said, Israel had been starting wars and attacking others. “It had not ceased to attack the lands of its neighbours and had undertaken all actions to force others into exile. Syria had seen occupation and colonization. However, its people had refused to adopt Israeli citizenship,” Hamoui said.

He went on to add: “They had waited for justice to be served and justice would be served. Israel had opted for colonization over a policy of peace. In the long run it was not in Israel’s interest to follow that course of action, nor would it lead to stability and peace. Israel had never wanted peace and would never want peace. They were obstinate. If Israel wanted peace all it would have to do would be to comply with international instruments. That would include releasing more than 500 prisoners, including Syrians who had been detained for roughly 25 years.”

Speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU), Javier Garrigues from Spain urged both sides to engage in preventing, investigating and remedying violations of international law, respect previous agreements and coordinate steps towards maintaining peace in the region. The European Union, Garrigues explained, urged the timely arrival of a political solution culminating in an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State. It further expressed concern at the humanitarian and human rights situation in the Gaza Strip and asked Israel to promote the movement and flow of commercial goods, humanitarian and reconstruction aid and persons to and from Gaza.

Gombya is The Black Star News' Europe Editor Based in the U.K.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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