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Updated: May 24, 2010 14:57 IST

Australia expels Israeli diplomat over passport fakery

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Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. File photo: AP.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. File photo: AP.

The Australian government said on Monday that it was expelling an Israeli diplomat after accusing Israel of using fake Australian passports in the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai.

“This is not what we expect from a nation with whom we have had such a close, friendly and supportive relationship,” Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said, when giving the Israeli embassy in Canberra one week to send an unnamed diplomat home.

Mr. Smith said forged Australian passports were used in the assassination of Mahmoud al—Mabhouh in February.

“The high quality of these counterfeited passports points to involvement of a state intelligence service,” he said. “These investigations and advice have left the Australian government in no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports.” The opposition Liberal Party described the expulsion as “an over—reaction.” Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia—Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, described the decision “unhelpful” and out of step with other countries affected by the counterfeiting.

“We would note in this regard that, while Australia followed a British precedent in its over—reaction, no similar step has been taken by Ireland, France or Germany, all of whom also allegedly had forged passports implicated in the killing,” he said.

Antony Loewenstein, an author and frequent critic of Israeli policies, condemned the Jewish community in Australia for not condemning what he called Israel’s flouting of international law.

“The way Israel behaves in Dubai, and indeed in many other parts of the world, is often to ignore local and international law, and expect the western world to support it and back it,” Mr. Loewenstein said. “Australia has long been treated like fools by Israel, and has often been more than happy to be seen as a fool, in many ways.”

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