Israeli official to be expelled over passport forgery affair
Diplomatic dispute escalates
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Micheal Martin is to escalate the diplomatic spat with Israel and kick one of its officials out of the country -- but it is yet to be decided who will be expelled.
The step is being taken after an investigation into how forged Irish passports were used by assassins who killed a Hamas official in Dubai.
The killers are believed to have been members of Mossad, the Israeli secret service.
But Mr Martin is not expected to make the move for at least another few weeks -- until the current storm over the international aid flotilla to Gaza fades away.
The six Irish citizens who were detained following Monday's incident, when Israeli commandos killed nine activists onboard the ships, were released yesterday and a number of them will arrive back in Dublin today.
They are expected to arrive on a flight from Istanbul this morning -- while Irish aid boat the 'MV Rachel Corrie', with five Irish passengers, continues its journey to Gaza.
But Mr Martin will wait before he acts on reports he has received from the passport office and the Garda Commissioner on the use of forged passports. After considering the reports, senior government officials recommended the expulsion of an Israeli embassy security official.
"I do intend to bring proposals to the Government in relation to the appropriate action that is necessary in response to that situation," Mr Martin said yesterday.
"We want to draw clear separation between that particular issue and what has happened earlier this week."
Israeli Ambassador to Ireland Zion Evrony said he "could not shed any light" on the passports issue.
"This is a matter of confidential dialogue between us and the Department of Foreign Affairs," Mr Evrony said.
And tensions between the Irish and Israeli governments remained high last night as the 'MV Rachel Corrie' sailed on toward Gaza with a cargo of aid.
The Israelis have vowed to stop any vessel from breaching their blockade of Gaza. Mr Martin and Taoiseach Brian Cowen urged the Israelis to act with restraint when dealing with the ship, which is expected to arrive in Gaza at some stage over the weekend.
When asked what would happen if the Israelis ignored his previous request to allow the ship through to Gaza, Mr Martin said that would "ultimately be a matter for the Israeli government".
"Our view is that it (the ship) should be allowed on unimpeded. There is no indication that the Israeli government is going to accede to that."
The ship has a cargo of bagged cement and medical equipment including a CT scanner, as well as printing paper, school books and toys.
Mr Evrony said yesterday that there could be problems bringing the cement into Gaza because it could be used by Hamas to reinforce its buildings.
Meanwhile, Mr Evrony has also pulled out of appearing before the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs committee today.
He had already said he would appear before the committee to discuss this week's crisis but pulled out yesterday due to "unforeseen circumstances".
Committee chairman Michael Woods TD described the last-minute decision as "without precedent".
"People want answers," Mr Woods said. "Unfortunately this opportunity has been lost."