Tensions escalate over fake passports

THE diplomatic rift between Ireland and Israel worsened yesterday when the Irish ambassador to Israel admitted the use of fake Irish passports in the assassination of a top Palestinian commander, has not helped relations between the two countries.

Tensions escalate over fake passports

Five fake Irish passports were used by the assassins, who are strongly suspected of being Israeli secret agents.

Ambassador Breifne O’Reilly, in Tel Aviv, told the Irish Examiner the allegations against Israel “certainly doesn’t help” diplomatic relations between the two countries.

His comments came ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday where Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman is expected to be confronted by representatives of member states caught up in the fake passport controversy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin is also expected to seek a meeting with Lieberman.

Diplomatic tensions between the two countries had already escalated in recent months after Israel refused to allow Minister Martin to enter the Gaza Strip, Ireland was also hugely critical of Israel’s military offensive on Gaza in late 2008, where over 1,000 Palestinians lost their lives.

Ambassador O’Reilly, who took up his post last August, said efforts were being made to engage “positively and constructively” with Israel on many matters including political, economic and cultural issues.

But he added: “This [assassination] certainly doesn’t help. The bigger picture points towards a need for a resolution of the conflict which we hope will also led to an easing of the blockade of Gaza and improvement of living conditions of Palestinians living in both Gaza and the West Bank. That’s the crucial point.”

Israel’s ambassador to Ireland Zion Evrony was last week asked by the Department of Foreign Affairs about his knowledge of the use of fake Irish passports and the Dubai killing, suspected of being carried out by Mossad, the Israeli secret service.

Mr Evrony said he knew nothing but he would relay Ireland’s concern back to Israel.

Britain and France also called in Israeli envoys over the use of fake passports in the name of their country by the assassins.

Previously, Israel was forced to apologise to Britain when forged British passports were discovered in a phone booth in Germany in 1979, apparently for Mossad use in an elicit arms deal with China.

After a botched attempt by Mossad to kill a Palestinian leader in 1997, Israel also had to apologise to Canada because its two agents were carrying stolen Canadian passports.

Irish ambassador Breifne O’Reilly said the sooner this investigation was concluded “the better for everyone’s sake.”

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