Former British Minister: ‘Israelis Think They Control the Foreign Office. And They do!’

Matt Kennard reports on revelations of Israeli state influence on U.K. politics in Alan Duncan’s recently published diaries.

July 14, 2016: Boris Johnson, while serving as foreign secretary, speaking to the media in London. (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By Matt Kennard
Declassified UK

From revelations about Israeli efforts to “destroy” him, to attempts by a powerful pro-Israel lobby group to stop him becoming a minister for the Middle East, Sir Alan Duncan saw up close the power of the Israeli state in British politics during his time at the heart of the U.K.  government.

Duncan served as British foreign minister from 2016-19, having previously held the international development brief. His new book, In The Thick Of It, reveals much about U.K.  government policy that has been missed by the British press and broadcasters.

At the beginning of 2017, media outlet Al Jazeera contacted Duncan to inform him about its undercover investigation into Israeli influence in U.K. politics, which included revelations related to him personally.

Duncan wrote in his diary that Al Jazeera “has footage of diplomats from the Israeli embassy in London collaborating with MPs from both Labour and Conservatives on Israel.” He said this included Shai Masot, a diplomat from the Israeli embassy “calling for them to destroy the ‘Deputy Foreign Minister’ (i.e. me), so that he never becomes Foreign Secretary.”

Duncan added: “They say that if [then foreign secretary] Boris [Johnson] were to be sacked, I’d take over and so both such moments have to be stopped.”

Days later, Duncan went to the Foreign Office to brief Simon McDonald, who was then running the department, on the revelations.

Duncan wrote: “I teasingly remind him of what happened and what I said to him on my first day as minister. ‘Simon… didn’t I tell you? The CFI and the Israelis think they control the Foreign Office. And they do!’”

The CFI is Conservative Friends of Israel, a powerful Westminster lobby group that does not disclose its funders but has claimed 80 percent of Conservative MPs are members.

Oct. 31, 2012: Alan Duncan, while serving as minister of state for international development. (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

‘They Shouldn’t Behave Like This’

On the same day, Duncan spoke on the phone to Mark Regev, then Israel’s ambassador to Britain. According to Duncan, Regev told him Masot is a “local hire, works in a junior capacity and does not have diplomatic status.”

“It’s all total bollocks,” Duncan wrote. “Masot is a First or Second Secretary, a member of military intelligence, employed specifically as a parliamentary and undercover propagandist.”

He continued: “What on earth is the point of Regev stating something that is so blatantly untrue, and about which we both hold the facts? What a muppet.”

Duncan then briefed Boris Johnson who was “indignant”.

“‘They shouldn’t behave like this,’ [Johnson] exclaimed, though I’d told him a million times that they do.”

Duncan confided that he withheld some information from Johnson: “The Al Jazeera tapes essentially say that I run the [Foreign Office], BoJo is an idiot, I take the serious decisions, and if anything happens to Boris I will become Foreign Secretary and so I must be destroyed. It’s a poor reading of the facts – indeed, it’s balls – but it gives a useful insight into Israel’s mentality.”

The Al Jazeera documentary also uncovered the degree of Israeli state influence over the opposition Labour Party.

In a conversation filmed outside a London pub, Michael Rubin, the parliamentary officer for Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), which counts dozens of Labour MPs as either “officers” or “supporters,” revealed the close links between the group and the Israeli embassy in London.

Rubin said that he and Shai Masot “work really closely together… but a lot of it is behind the scenes.” He added that “the [Israeli] embassy helps us quite a lot. When bad stories come out about Israel, the embassy sends us information so that we can counter it.”

Mark Regev in 2018. (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Aware of these revelations, Duncan talked with Emily Thornberry, then shadow foreign secretary, to see if Labour intended to table an urgent question in parliament on the matter.

“They won’t because it would risk stirring up more anti-Semitism accusations against them,” Duncan reported, referring to the long-running “anti-Semitism crisis” that rocked the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

The LFI faced no action from Labour in the aftermath of the Al Jazeera program.

‘Entrenched Espionage’ 

Before hard evidence emerged of Israeli efforts to “destroy” him, Duncan had already been targeted by the CFI to stop him being promoted within the British government.

On July 16, 2016, Duncan wrote: “All seems clear and agreed that I will be Minister for the Middle East, as expected. Permanent Under-Secretary Simon McDonald called to say it’s all been agreed and he would recommend it to the Foreign Secretary.”

He continued: “But when I see Boris [Johnson] at 6pm it seems a massive problem has arisen, which is nothing short of contemptible. Boris says the Conservative Friends of Israel are going ballistic.”

Johnson reported that Eric Pickles and Stuart Polak, both senior figures in the CFI, “have both called him incessantly saying I must not be appointed.”

Duncan wrote that the opposition from the CFI is “for no other reason than that I believe in the rights of the Palestinians.”

“Whereas they pretend to believe in two parallel states, it’s quite clear that they don’t, and so set out to destroy all genuine advocates for Palestine,” he added.

He concluded: “They just want to belittle and subjugate the Palestinians.”

The lobbying worked. Despite the appointment not being announced, “Now Number 10 are telling Boris I cannot have the Middle East,” Duncan wrote. He continued that Johnson was “somewhat indignant at this pressure and its propriety (or lack of it).”

Duncan then offered a compromise: to take the Middle East minister job but to exclude the issue of Israel-Palestine from the brief.  Johnson “likes the idea,” Duncan reported, but added that “on any level it is appalling that a [prime minister]’s appointments can be subject to such lobbying. Our own national interest is being taken for a sucker.”

He continued: “In any other country the conduct of Eric Pickles and Stuart Polak would in my view be seen as entrenched espionage that should prompt an inquiry into their conduct.”

Duncan also wrote that Downing Street Chief of Staff Nick Timothy was “in cahoots with CFI lobbying.”

He continued: “This whole issue of Israel is utterly out of proportion, but, worse, is permitted to empower interested parties in Number 10 to decide what a minister’s responsibilities should be. This is improper. It’s wrong. I actually think it’s corrupt, but the whole system buys into it without realising how wrong it is.”

The situation then escalated further as Duncan reported that the Board of Deputies of British Jews ran a webcast in which Labour MP Louise Ellman said that Duncan should not be foreign minister.

“My appointment isn’t even public yet. How did they know?” Duncan wrote. “Clearly Pickles and Polak have been actively lobbying against me, linking CFI, Labour Friends of Israel and the Board of Deputies.”

Duncan continued: “This is the most disgusting interference in our public life. I find it astonishing the system allows it to happen, all the more so as anything I have said has been wholly in tune with government policy. The difference seems to be that I believe in that policy, whereas CFI and the government itself do not!”

Duncan was then informed that his appointment to Middle East minister would be blocked. “This is so wrong on all levels,” he wrote, adding that Simon McDonald “is rather perturbed by what is going on.”

He added: “The only people who are acting improperly are CFI and those who accept their browbeating lobbying.”

In the end, Duncan was offered the role as minister for Europe and the Americas, and served in that position for three years. However, he told McDonald that “he should never forget what it is the [Foreign Office] has submitted to.”

Embedded Outside Influence’

Pro Israel Gaza rally, Trafalgar Square, London, Jan. 11, 2009. (Chris Beckett, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Duncan also casts light on another scandal involving the Israeli government and the CFI which broke in 2017. It emerged that Priti Patel, then minister for international development, held a number of “off radar” meetings with Israeli officials, including Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a “family holiday” in the country.

Duncan notes that Patel spent a week in Israel “on a programme put together by Polak, without telling the [Foreign Office] or even her own department, attending meetings at the highest level, accompanied by the principal pro-Israel donor lobbying in the U.K. ”, referring to Polak.

He concluded that “it is yet further evidence of the pernicious influence of Polak and the CFI, something that amounts to embedded outside influence at the heart of our politics”.

Patel eventually resigned but Duncan noted that nothing in the “exchange of letters even mentions Israel and the deep impropriety of her actions… and the CFI remains in place, unchallenged and only obliquely mentioned”.

Duncan concluded: “The Conservative Party and the PM remain in total denial, and once again brush it under the carpet. It reeks, it stinks, it festers, it moulders – all rotten to the core. The rules of propriety, and all the morality and principle that goes with it, are discarded and rewritten to accommodate this exceptional pro-Israel infiltration into the very centre of our public life.”

Duncan also believed other U.K.  government policies were being dictated by the CFI. In February 2019, then home secretary Sajid Javid banned the political arm of Hezbollah, the Lebanese party and militant group.

Javid, Duncan notes, is “just sucking up to the CFI, who are out in force behind him reading out their scripted interventions”, adding, “Polak and Pickles are in the Peers’ Gallery gloating from above about having deployed their Commons troops in Israel’s cause.”

He added: “We are supposed to be Great Britain, but I fear we are too willing to let others pull our strings.”

Declassified recently outlined the deepening military relations between the U.K.  and Israel and revealed that a third of cabinet ministers in Boris Johnson’s government have been funded by Israel or the CFI.

Last week, foreign secretary Dominic Raab travelled to Israel for a meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu thanked Johnson for his “staunch, unwavering support” in the recent bombing of Gaza, to which Raab replied: “You can always count on us.”

Raab described himself as a “friend” and “great supporter” of Israel.

Presented with Duncan’s allegations of undue Israeli influence, the Foreign Office refused to provide an on-the-record comment. The Conservative Friends of Israel, Stuart Polak and Eric Pickles, did not respond to requests for comment. DM

Matt Kennard is head of Investigations at Declassified UK, an investigative journalism organisation that covers the U.K. ’s role in the world. 

This article is from Declassified UK.


13 comments for “Former British Minister: ‘Israelis Think They Control the Foreign Office. And They do!’

  1. Andrew Thomas
    June 5, 2021 at 19:42

    The only surprising things about this are that, first, Duncan actually believes Palestinians are human; second, that he put any stock at all in Israel’s official position on the thigh-slapping two state solution; third, that he thinks that the UK is any different from the US on any of this, and, finally, that he wasn’t sacked out of the service entirely on this account, as opposed to being given an equally prestigious post.

  2. Bruce Dodds
    June 5, 2021 at 14:45

    The difference between the UK and the US on this matter is that in the UK Sir Alan Duncan is able to publish such unpleasant truths. It’s doubtful that a former American cabinet member would ever do so.

    • robert e williamson jr
      June 6, 2021 at 16:20

      Ah Mr. Dodds so right you are, at issue are the matters of backbone, intestinal fortitude and blackmail.

      I will say this until someone can prove me wrong. Check the facts we learn from document releases and Israel’s brief but entirely corrupt history.

      The UK was essential to the birth of Israel which in short order compromised US intelligence. JJ Angleton immediately became US contact point at CIA for Israel and the rest is history. I firmly believe that initially James Jesus was compromised by Israel or his American employers who set his love affair with Israel in motion.

      Remember that Edward Teller was instrumental in getting Robert Oppenheimer’s clearance pulled on trumped up bogus charges and the dirty deed was facilitaed by the Gray Committee ad kangaroo court held by the USAEC.

      Shortly after which Zalmon Shapiro opened his NUMEC which and was responsible for the secreted diversion of highly enrich U-235 (97%) higest enrichment any where on earth at the time, to Israel.

      JFK gets murdered and as they say the rest is history. Things were never the same in DC after the JFK murder, the message had been sent to the US government and delivered.

      And a nasty history it is. Read the history of Israeli government involvement in US Government affairs, the undo influence ($$$$) they used to buy congress and still use.

      Nothing in D.C. is as it appears to be.

      Now ask yourself a question, “What is it that facilitates Israeli involvement in our nations foreign policy?” Their lobby, right?

      Americans pay taxes so the newest and best killing tech can be developed. Israelis can contract for the latest versions of US killing machines and then the government gives them the money to buy that technology for almost no cost to Israel – SEE ENORMOUS CASH GIFTS US GIVES TO ISRAEL. What could go wrong.

      Still Americans deny their existence and what controls it.

  3. Al Shirani
    June 5, 2021 at 11:05

    Everything can happen when American people are mostly either stupid, low educated or brainwashed and their government runs the system like Mafia and they call it number one democracy in the world….

  4. Antiwar7
    June 5, 2021 at 10:02

    Business as usual in the corrupt West.

  5. Mike Kan
    June 4, 2021 at 23:44

    Israel is a great economic, military and intelligence friend of the UK. The UK also needs Israel’s technology and start-up innovation to help grow its own tech sector.

    Politicians like Duncan who try to stop this do t understand Britain’s interests

    • Andrew Nichols
      June 5, 2021 at 07:07

      South Africa under the first Apartheid State also had a great friend in Britain. Aprtheid still ended.

    • Anna
      June 5, 2021 at 14:32

      “Israel is a great economic, military and intelligence friend of the UK.”

      Actually, the Friends of Israel in the UK always put the interests of Israel above the interests of the UK and western Europe at large.
      See an excellent illustration of these relationships on Youtube: “Neuro-parasitology of the Jewel Wasp and its Zombie Cockroach Host”

    • June 5, 2021 at 17:02

      You don’t need to accept Israeli spying on your youth and determining national policy to co-operate on something as mundane as business startups. Israeli is an illegal nuclear weapons pariah and a worse-than-apartheid state which has committed constant daily crimes against humanity against Palestinians since 1948. No one born in the UK could suffer living under the hellish conditions Palestinians do, having to go through military checkpoints daily to be humiliated, delayed and refused just to go doctor’s appointment or visit a relative in another town. Israel is a state that kidnaps and detains children indefinitely and shoots them in the back when they run away from their tanks. The systemic discrimination has been called apartheid by Israel’s own leaders, although that is disputed by South Africans who experienced apartheid and describe the situation in Palestine as “worse than apartheid.” No friend is worth becoming an enemy of humanity and the basic principles we claim to hold dear as Westerners, especially one that views you as a mere tool to be used to get what they want. Sanction, Boycott, Divest from illegal nuclear weapons power Israel.

    • Brewer
      June 5, 2021 at 17:55

      Couldn’t have phrased it better myself……if I was searching for an explanation of how the ideology of some, that has its roots in Judaism, places the interests of one group in precedence over universal principles of justice and fairness.
      Perhaps we need an amendment to our Constitutions. One that requires all decisions be put to the “Is it good for the Tech Sector” test.

    • Michael Stones
      June 6, 2021 at 02:46

      Israel is and always was an illegal state. When Ben Gurion declared the state of Israel he had a recommendation NOT an agreement or mandate so he ROBBED that land off its rightful owners so anything they do over there is against international law

    • Annie McStravick
      June 6, 2021 at 06:17

      This article is about israel’s attempts to destroy anyone who stands up for justice for the indigenous Palestinians; Mr Kan is trying to change the subject.

      Nobody needs the rogue state.

  6. coup63
    June 4, 2021 at 21:02

    Well. what did you expect?

Comments are closed.