Israel Ambassador Apologises After Embassy Employee 'Take Down' Comment

A construction site silhouetted in the Israeli settlement of Har Homa, known to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim in an area of the West Bank that Israel captured in the 1967 war and annexed to the city of Jerusalem.Reuters

Israel Ambassador Mark Regev has apologised after an employee of the Israeli embassy was filmed by Al Jazeera saying he wanted to "take down" Sir Alan Duncan,  a minister in the Foreign Office.

Regev admitted the comments by Shai Masot, a political officer at the embassy, were "completely unacceptable".

In an  undercover filming operation, Masot was captured talking to Maria Strizzolo, then chief of staff to Conservative MP Robert Halfon.

Masot said: "Can I give you the names of MPs I would suggest you take down?"

Strizzolo responded that all MPs have something to hide "something they're trying to hide".

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Masot then said she knew which MPs he meant, and referring to Duncan, specified the "deputy foreign minister".

The apology by Regev was tweeted by Israeli embassy spokesman Yiftah Curiel.

Regev said: "The Embassy of Israel rejects the remarks concerning Minister Duncan, which are completely unacceptable.

"The comments were made by a junior embassy employee who is not an Israeli diplomat and who will be ending his term of employment with the embassy shortly."

Regev also spoke in person to Duncan last Friday and "made clear that the embassy considered the remarks to be completely unacceptable".

Al Jazeera has been investigating the embassy for six months for a four-part series, The Lobby, to go out daily on Al Jazeera from January 15 at 22:30 GMT. Al Jazeera reported that a journalist posed as a pro-Israel graduate activist eager to combat the "boycott, divestment and sanctions" or BDS movement that has strong support from some people in the UK.

Duncan has been a critic of Israel over its strategies towards Palestinians. He said in 2014 that he supports Israel's right to exist but believes Palestinian settlements represent an "ever-deepening stain" on the face of the globe and compared the situation in the occupied West Bank to apartheid.

Strizzolo also told 'Robin': "If at least you can get a small group of MPs that you know you can always rely on, when there is something coming to parliament and you know you brief them, you say: 'You don't have to do anything, we are going to give you the speech, we are going to give you all the information, we are going to do everything for you.'"

When Masot referred to Tory MP Crispin Blunt, who has also been critical of Israel, Strizzolo said: "On the hit list? Yeah!"

Masot replied: "Arab apologists". 

Blunt condemned this as "formally outrageous and deserving of investigation". 

Lord Stuart Polak, director of Conservative Friends of Israel, told the the Jewish Chronicle: "We utterly condemn any attempt to undermine Sir Alan, or any minister, or any Member of Parliament."

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