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ARAB WORLD: Britain’s booting of Israeli diplomat over Dubai passport scandal not enough, media says

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Britain’s decision to expel an Israeli diplomat earlier this week was a good slap on the wrist, but the nation can do better, according to Arab media.

Britain booted an Israeli diplomat, widely believed to be the Jewish state’s spy chief in London, over the forging of British passports thought to have been used in the January assassination of Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai.

Qatar’s pro-government Al-Watan daily called for Britain to expel Israel’s ambassador to London. It called the expulsion of the suspected Mossad station chief a slap on the wrist.

‘The British people, whose deputies called for expelling the Israeli ambassador from London and trying the people involved in Dubai’s crime and described Israel as a rogue state, will soon leave this case to die away in order to protect relations with Israel,’ it said.

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A commentary by Zuhair Majid in Oman’s daily Al-Watan said Britain should shut down Israel’s embassy in London. ‘What is needed is to close the Israeli embassy once and for all, as anyone who did these violations must have done it before and perhaps did it several times without being discovered,’ the piece said.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri hailed the move, saying in a statement to the Hamas-sympathetic Palestinian Information Center (PIC) news site that the expulsion was a ‘clear-cut proof on the involvement’ of Israel in the killing.

But while welcoming the booting of the diplomat, Zuhri also demanded prosecution of ‘all those involved in the murder.’

Israeli leaders, he said, should be brought to justice before international courts.

Twelve forged British passports are believed to have been used in the plot to kill Mabhouh, who was found dead in his room at the five-star Al Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai on Jan. 19. Australia, France, Germany and Ireland are investigating suspected identity thefts related to the assassination.

An unsigned opinion piece in the Dubai-based English newspaper Gulf News called for additional measures to be undertaken to bring Mabhouh’s killers to justice. It called on Britain and other western nations affected by the Dubai passport scandal to bring ‘those who violated their laws to justice.’

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, an editorial in the Jeddah-based daily Arab News blasted Britain for not openly accusing Israel’s spy agency, the Mossad, of Mabhouh’s murder.

‘The British government expelled an Israeli diplomat yesterday.Yet incredibly the British still refuse to openly accuse the Israel secret service Mossad of carrying out the assassination. This double thinking is entirely baffling,’ it read.

It went on to sharply criticize Britain for not condemning the purpose for which the cloned passports allegedly were used.

‘The British cannot even come out and unequivocally condemn the murder,’ it said. ‘Not for one moment did Miliband express anger at the purpose for which the passports were used. Ludicrously they are far more concerned with the cloning of UK travel documents. Murder is murder...sending one Israeli diplomat packing is no substitute for saying it as it is, loudly and clearly.’

In the latest developments in the passport scandal, Britain has decided it is time to change its Israel travel advisory. On Tuesday, the Foreign Office added new advice to British citizens traveling to Israel on its website, warning them that their passport details could be put to ‘improper uses’ and urging British nationals to keep a close eye on their travel documents while in Israel.

‘We recommend that you only hand your passport over to third parties including Israeli officials when absolutely necessary,’ said the advice.

And unless Israel gives a public assurance that British citizens’ passports will never again be used for shady purposes, it will not be allowed to replace its booted Mossad diplomat in London, reported Britain’s The Independent newspaper Thursday.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut


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