Thursday 14 December 2017

UK adviser quits after footage of diplomat 'targeting' minister

A still image from the video shows Israeli diplomat Shai Masot Picture: AP/Al Jazeera
A still image from the video shows Israeli diplomat Shai Masot Picture: AP/Al Jazeera

Kim Ripoll

A British minister's adviser has quit after being caught on camera discussing with an Israeli diplomat how to "take down" a senior government minister.

Maria Strizzolo, a civil servant and adviser to education minister Robert Halfon, has quit her post at the Skills Funding Agency after being filmed talking about Alan Duncan, Boris Johnson's deputy at the Foreign Office.

Footage taken by Al Jazeera at a London restaurant showed Shai Masot, an intelligence expert, telling an aide to education minister Robert Halfon that Mr Duncan, who has been critical of Israel, was in his sights.

He said Mr Duncan was causing a "lot of problems", and he also dismissed Mr Johnson as an "idiot".

In the footage, Mr Masot set out the alleged extent of Israel's participation in British politics.

He told Joan Ryan, a senior Labour MP, that he had obtained more than £1m to pay for sympathetic party colleagues to visit Israel as he mocked Jeremy Corbyn and his "weirdo" supporters.

The Israeli embassy said that Mr Masot's comments were "completely unacceptable" and added that his employment will end "shortly".

Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, apologised to Mr Duncan directly on Friday.

The targeting of Mr Duncan took place at the Aubaine restaurant, directly opposite the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, West London.

Mr Duncan incensed Israel in 2014 when he described Israeli settlements on the West Bank as a "wicked cocktail of occupation and illegality, a system akin to apartheid which brought shame on the Israeli government."

There was also a legacy of ill feeling between Mr Duncan and Mr Halfon, the ex-director of Conservative Friends of Israel. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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