By political correspondent Emma Rodgers : abc.net.au, news
The Federal Government is expelling an Israeli diplomat after it found Israel faked Australian passports that were used in a hit on a top Hamas leader in Dubai.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith today condemned the fraud as “not the act of a friend” and a clear affront to Australia that cannot be tolerated.
“This is not what we expect from a nation with whom we have had such a close, friendly and supportive relationship,” he said.
In February several forged Australian passports were used in the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
Mr Smith confirmed investigations by Australian Federal Police, ASIO and ASIS showed Israel fabricated the passports of four Australians who also had Israeli nationality.
“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 Department of Foreign Affairs summoned the Charge D’affairs to request that it remove one of its diplomats within the week.
“The Government takes this step much more in sorrow than anger or retaliation,” Mr Smith said.
“It is a decision taken in our national security interest.
“The department conveyed the Government’s deep disappointment over Israel’s involvement in this affair.”
The diplomat who has been expelled has not been named and it is not known whether they will return or be replaced at a later stage.
Mr Smith said Australia would now work on rebuilding its relationship and reminded Israel friendship was a “two-way street”.
He also said Israel should realise it is on notice that if it again fabricates Australian passports similar or stronger action would be taken.
When asked if Israel had acknowledged its part in the affair or had apologised, Mr Smith replied: “In terms of the substance of these matters Israel has not been drawn in those conversations or drawn on those matters.”
Nicole McCabe, Joshua Bruce, Adam Korman and Joshua Krycer have been named as the Australians whose passports were forged. All four live in Israel.