Thursday, February 21, 2008

British Government Sought to Protect Relationship with Israel

This from The Guardian:

The full extent of government anxiety about the state of British-Israel relations can be exposed for the first time today in a secret document seen by the Guardian.

The document reveals how the Foreign Office successfully fought to keep secret any mention of Israel contained on the first draft of the controversial, now discredited Iraq weapons dossier. At the heart of it was nervousness at the top of government about any mention of Israel's nuclear arsenal in an official paper accusing Iraq of flouting the UN's authority on weapons of mass destruction.

The dossier was made public this week, but the Foreign Office succeeded before a tribunal in having the handwritten mention of Israel kept secret.

The FO never argued that the information would damage national security. The Guardian has seen the full text and a witness statement from a senior Foreign Office official, who argued behind closed doors that any public mention of the candid reference would seriously damage UK/Israeli relations. In the statement, he reveals that in the past five years there have been 10 substantial incidents and 20 more minor ones relating to Israeli concerns about attitudes to their government within Whitehall.

The Information Tribunal, which adjudicates on disputes involving the Freedom of Information Act, agreed to remove the single reference to Israel when it ordered the release of the draft of the Iraqi weapons dossier written by John Williams, the FO's chief information officer at the time.

Along with unfavourable references to the US and Japan, the reference to Israel was written in the margin by someone commenting on the opening paragraph of the Williams draft. It was written against the claim that "no other country [apart from Iraq] has flouted the United Nations' authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction".

This comes on the back of the 'revelation' that the UK government put the interests of the US government before the interests of UK citizens, the failure of Scotland Yard to arrest an alleged war criminal and the ongoing BAE scandal. All of this begs the question, when are we going to stop allowing other countries to dictate to us? When are we going to stick two fingers up to the Saudis, the Americans and the Israelis and determine out own course of action? When are we going to stop being controlled by the interests of others? I for one won't be holding my breath.