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New Zealand imposes sanctions against Israel



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    With the full power of the US-financed Israeli government behind them, Mossad cells have unlimited access to money, weapons and explosives, as well as drugs, terrorists and violent criminals. Were they planning something designed to turn people in the region against Israel's Arab enemies? ***

The Prime Minister made a scathing attack on Israel and imposed tough diplomatic sanctions after two alleged Mossad spies were jailed for passport fraud yesterday.

"The New Zealand Government views the act carried out by the Israeli intelligence agents as not only utterly unacceptable but also a breach of New Zealand sovereignty and international law," Helen Clark said.

The sanctions, including suspending all high-level visits to or from Israel, came minutes after Uriel Zoshe Kelman, 31, and Eli Cara, 51, were sentenced to prison for six months for stealing the identity of a tetraplegic man to obtain a false New Zealand passport.

Helen Clark said there were "very strong grounds" to believe the men were acting for Israel's intelligence services.

The case was revealed by the Weekend Herald in April.

Last night Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said, "We are sorry about this matter. It will be dealt with and all will be done to restore Israel's long history of good relations with New Zealand to their previous correct ties."

Mr Shalom did not address the claim that the two convicted men were linked to Israel's intelligence services.

In court both men denied having links with spy agencies, such as Mossad.

Helen Clark said: "If one were to lay espionage charges, one would have to be prepared to offer the kind of evidence in court which our intelligence agencies don't like coming forward to display.

"We have very strong grounds for believing these are Israeli intelligence agents."

The sanctions are high on the scale of diplomatic displeasure between Governments, although they avoid targeting the 6000-plus Israeli tourists who visit New Zealand each year.

All Israelis coming to New Zealand on Government business must now obtain visas, Foreign Ministry consultations with Israel have been suspended and the Government has declined an approach for Israel's head of state, President Moshe Katsav, to visit in August.

Helen Clark said the case was a "sorry indictment" on Israel, with which New Zealand had long shared friendly relations.

"We regard it as an unfriendly action by agents of the Government of Israel, aimed at undermining New Zealand's sovereignty and certainly breaching international law.

"While we regret the need for it, New Zealand has no option but to take the actions that it has in response to a deliberate breach of its sovereignty.

"This incident has seriously strained that relationship and it will remain strained for some time."

New Zealand had asked for an explanation and an apology three months ago."We look forward at some point to the Israeli Government swallowing its pride and offering the explanation and apology we have asked for."

Helen Clark ruled out any deals with the Israeli Government similar to the agreement the previous Labour Government reached with France in 1986 over the two French spies who bombed the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior.

The breach has parallels to a row in 1997 between Israel and Canada, which demanded Mossad stop using Canadian passports on covert operations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff said: "One of the most damaging things that has been done to Israel is the public exposure of the actions of their intelligence agencies in violating other people's sovereignty in total contradiction of international law."

Mr Goff said the agents were working for Mossad.

"We have no doubt on our side that these were individuals who were not working simply as part of a private criminal organisation. These were people who were doing it on behalf of Israeli intelligence agencies."

The convicted men, who have spent two weeks in prison awaiting sentence, are likely to remain behind bars for a further 10 weeks before being deported.

Israel's acting ambassador in Australia, Orma Sagiv, said she hoped Israel's relationship with New Zealand would not be damaged long-term.

The affair began after a tip-off to police from Internal Affairs over an application for a New Zealand passport by an Israeli, Zev William Barkan, 37, who has now fled the country.

Barkan took the identity of a man around the same age, who had cerebral palsy, in applying for a New Zealand passport. Investigating Barkan, a covert police operation discovered Cara and Kelman near drop-off points for the couriered passport.


SOURCE

New Zealand Herald, "Angry Prime Minister hammers Israel", 16 July 2004.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3578655


FURTHER READING

BBC News, "New Zealand jails Israeli 'spies'", 15 July 2004.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3896009.stm
    New Zealand has imposed diplomatic sanctions on Israel over the activities of two alleged members of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad.
    ...
    Prime Minister Helen Clark said that such acts by what she called Israeli government agencies were a violation of New Zealand sovereignty.
    ...
    They did plead guilty to attempting to gain New Zealand passports illegally and working with organised criminal gangs.
    ...

Haaretz, "NZ has evidence jailed Israelis are Mossad agents", 20 July 2004.
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/453683.html
    New Zealand has concrete evidence to support claims that the two Israelis sentenced last week on passport fraud charges are Mossad agents, the New Zealand Herald reported Tuesday.
    After Thursday's verdict, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced that the two had operated "on behalf of the intelligence services of Israel," and proceeded to freeze all high-level contact with Israel.
    ...
    According to Tuesday's newspaper report, New Zealand intelligence services obtained concrete evidence that Cara and Kelman are Mossad agents by bugging their phones.
    Covert surveillance was undertaken after a New Zealand official became suspicious about the passport application, the Herald said.
    ...
    Yahad MK Yossi Sarid demanded over the weekend that the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee investigate what he said was the Mossad's failed operation in New Zealand. Sarid said the unsuccessful operation joins a series of failures by Israel's foreign intelligence service over the past several years.

New Zealand Herald, "Gang leaders defer to jailed Israelis says paper", 10 August 2004.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3583283
    The two men at the centre of the Israeli spy scandal are being given "unbelievable respect" in prison and gang leaders defer to them, the Jerusalem Post has reported.
    ...
    He said they were both fine and comfortable, mixed freely within the jail and appeared to enjoy a special status among prisoners, who included some of the toughest gang members.
    The source said the gang leaders were at the top of the prison hierarchy, but that they deferred to the Israelis.
    "I don't know whether it's their religion or who they are, but the Israelis are given unbelievable respect by other prisoners."
    ...
    A Canterbury University criminologist, Associate Professor Greg Newbold, said he expected the reports to be accurate.
    Gang leaders would see the pair as terrorists and therefore as people of power and mystery.
    "Gang leaders do have a special status in prison because of their power and these guys are part of one of the biggest gangs in the world, Mossad."
    Professor Newbold said it would be the same as for those convicted of the Rainbow Warrior bombing in the 1980s or if these men were part of an organisation like the IRA.
    Cara and Kelman admitted their role in attempting to obtain a false passport for a third man, former Israeli Zev William Barkan, but have appealed against their convictions. Barkan left the country in March and is wanted by police.

USA Today, "Family: Oregon lawyer has no connection to Madrid attacks", 8 May 2004.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-05-08-mayfield-profile_x.htm
    The first American arrested in the deadly train bombing in Madrid is a former Army lieutenant and a convert to Islam who lives in a nondescript suburban home and faithfully attends a nearby mosque.
    Family members say Brandon Mayfield is innocent and has never even been to Spain. But law enforcement officials there said Friday that his fingerprints had been found on bags containing detonators of the kind used in the March 11 attack, which killed 191 people and injured 2,000 others.
    ...
   

"The Insider" mailing list article, 16 July 2004.

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