Australia said Monday it would expel an official from the Israeli embassy after finding the Jewish state was behind fake Australian passports linked to the killing of a Hamas operative.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Australia remained a "firm friend" of Israel but no government could tolerate the abuse of its passports.
"The government has asked that a member of the Israeli embassy in Canberra be withdrawn from Australia," Smith told parliament, without identifying the official. "I have asked that the withdrawal be effected within a week."
An investigation into how four Australian passports were used by the team that carried out the January killing of Hamas operative Mahmud al-Mabhuh in a luxury Dubai hotel found the documents were forgeries, Smith said.
He said the high quality of the forged passports pointed to the involvement of a state intelligence service.
"These investigations and advice have left the government in no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports," he said.
Smith said this was not the first time that Israel had misused Australian passports, but he declined to comment on the other occasions.
"This is not what we expect from a nation with whom we have had such a close, supportive relationship," he said. "These are not the actions of a friend."
"The government takes this step much more in sorrow than in anger," he added.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Australia expels Israeli embassy official
As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald of May 24, 2010: