Tory aide Strizzolo forced to quit as astonishing video captures ‘hit list’ chat
TORY aide Maria Strizzolo resigned yesterday after a senior Israeli embassy official was caught on camera discussing plans to bring down Westminster government ministers as part of a “hit list” of British MPs deemed too close to Palestine.
Labour demanded an immediate inquiry yesterday.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry warned of a “national security issue” after Ms Strizzolo was exposed plotting with Israeli embassy official Shai Masot to discredit and “take down” a list of MPs including former Tory deputy foreign secretary Sir Alan Duncan and foreign affairs select committee chairman Crispin Blunt over their support for Palestinian statehood.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Israeli ambassador has apologised and is clear these comments do not reflect the views of the embassy or government of Israel. The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.”
But Ms Thornberry said the Foreign Office response was not acceptable: “The exposure of an Israeli embassy official discussing how to bring down or discredit a government minister and other MPs because of their views on the Middle East is extremely disturbing.
“Improper interference in our democratic politics by other states is unacceptable whichever country is involved.
“It is simply not good enough for the Foreign Office to say the matter is closed. This is a national security issue.
“The embassy official involved should be withdrawn, and the government should launch an immediate inquiry.”
It was also revealed that Mr Masot had also held discussions with Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, in which he confirmed that he had a budget of £1 million to fund trips to Israel for sympathetic Labour MPs.
He dismissed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “crazy” and his supporters as “weirdos.” Ms Ryan has been a prominent critic of Mr Corbyn and has accused him of failing to deal with allegations of anti-semitism in the Labour Party.
In 2015 she urged supporters not to vote for Mr Corbyn as he stood for Labour leader and she backed the failed coup against him last year.
Former Respect MP George Galloway demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and said the Prime Minister “now has clear evidence that a foreign government in league with their agents in Parliament are [involved in] a conspiracy against her government.”
He said Labour leader Mr Corbyn “must order an inquiry into the socalled ‘Labour Friends of Israel’ and their £1m slush fund at the Israeli embassy.”
Mr Galloway said that Ms Ryan’s position in Labour was untenable and asked if any of the “slush fund” had been used to undermine Mr Corbyn.
Ms Strizzolo was an adviser to former Conservative Friends of Israel political director Robert Halfron MP when she discussed a “hit list” of MPs with Mr Masot.
They believed that they were talking to “Robin,” a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel who was in fact an undercover reporter for AlJazeera.
Scottish Palestine Solidarity chairwoman Sofiah MacLeod said: “No doubt all political parties have been targeted by the Israeli government.
“Last year we saw the witch-hunt in the Labour Party led by many Labour Friends of Israel activists. We also know they have initiated a campaign to influence the SNP and Scottish civil society.”
In the conversations with Ms Strizzolo, Mr Masot confirmed that he was not “a career diplomat” but that he was at the Israeli embassy on a political posting to assist with specific issues.
He referred to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as “an idiot,” but expressed more concern over the influence of Mr Duncan.
As Ms Strizzolo boasted of her influence, Mr Masot asked her: “Can I give you some MPs that I would suggest you would take down?”
In other conversations Ms Strizzolo referred to a “hit list” of MPs that Mr Masot claimed were “more pro-Arab than pro-Israel.”
Ms Strizzolo suggested that she could help: “Well, you know, if you look hard enough, I’m sure that there is something that they’re trying to hide … a little scandal, maybe.”
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