Everything you need to know about the sting catching an Israeli embassy official saying he wants to 'take down' a minister


As faux-pas go, this was a pretty major one. An Israeli embassy staffer has been caught in an undercover sting discussing how to "take down" Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan, and now the ambassador has apologised for the debacle.

How was the footage captured?

The footage was secretly recorded at the Aubaine restaurant (Al Jazeera Investigative Unit)

The conversation was recorded secretly as part of an investigation by Al Jazeera. The footage is from a dinner that took place in October 2016 at the Aubaine restaurant, which is opposite the Israeli Embassy in Kensington.

Who was involved?

Israeli embassy official
Shai Masot works at the Israeli embassy (Al Jazeera Investigative Unit)

The Israeli Embassy's senior political officer Shai Masot was caught talking to Maria Strizollo, an aide to Tory minister Robert Halfon (the former political director of Conservative Friends of Israel).

They were caught by a reporter - known as Robin - who posed as a graduate activist with strong sympathies towards Israel who was keen to help combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement prominent in Britain.

What was said?

Alan Duncan
Sir Alan Duncan was particularly mentioned (PA)

Masot asked Strizollo: "Can I give you some names of MPs that I would suggest you take down?"

Strizzolo replied that all MPs have "something they're trying to hide" and Masot responded by saying "I have some MPs", adding "she knows which MPs I want to take down" before specifying "the deputy foreign minister" - Sir Alan Duncan.

Why was Sir Alan targeted in particular?

Alan Duncan
Duncan is currently deputy foreign minister (Johnny Green/PA)

Sir Alan has been critical of Israel, and so was seen as more of a problem than Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - who was "basically good", according to Masot in a transcript of the conversation.

"He just doesn't care. He is an idiot but has become minister of foreign affairs without any responsibilities. If something real happened it won't be his fault... it will be Alan Duncan. Duncan is impossible to rebuff ... he has a lot of friends."

What has Strizzolo said of the conversation?

Strizzolo told the Mail on Sunday that her conversation with Masot was "tongue-in-cheek and gossipy", adding: "Any suggestion that I ... could exert the type of influence you are suggesting is risible."

She said she knew Masot "purely socially and as a friend. He is not someone with whom I have ever worked or had any political dealings beyond chatting about politics, as millions of people do, in a social context".

How have other people reacted to the debacle?

Mark Regev
Ambassador Mark Regev has apologised (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Crispin Blunt, who was also referred to by Masot, told the Mail on Sunday the comments about Sir Alan were "outrageous".

In a statement, the Israeli Embassy said it "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.

"Ambassador Regev on Friday spoke with Minister Duncan, apologised for the comments and made clear that the embassy considered the remarks to be completely unacceptable."

The Foreign Office said Israel's ambassador Mark Regev had apologised. A 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."