It’s good that the PM finally backed down on his position that he couldn’t say anything about whether Mossad spies had been operating in New Zealand, for “national security” reasons. Pressure from the Greens, Labour and the media certainly helped the PM shift his stance.
However, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. The journalist who blew the story, Southland Times editor Fred Tulett, insists that his sources, including Israeli Ambassador, Chemi Tzur, were talking about the dead young Israeli Ofer Mizrahi having more than one passport in his possession – that is, on top of Mizrahi’s Israeli passport which his three friends apparently had.
The government will have to come forward with more information otherwise doubt will remain in the public mind.
It is surprising that the Intelligence and Security Committee in Parliament was not apprised of this operation. What is it told if not about a major operation like this?
There is a reluctance to say or do anything that embarrasses the Israeli government, particularly as the current National government has adopted a stronger pro-Israeli foreign policy stance than Labour. It would be good if there was more public scrutiny of this. This is something that the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee (of which I am a member) could look at.
I have been asked by the media whether the SIS investigation into whether Mossad agents have been operating here means that the SIS has a useful role to play. I have answered that it would probably be more useful having one agency, the Police, with the capacity to fully investigate such potential threats to our security. The problem with having a second agency, the SIS, is that it is less accountable to the public, with Prime Ministers using “national security” as a reason for keeping everything under wraps. There is the problem with a case like this that our SIS will not want to probe too far, for fear of upsetting its US partner agencies, which have close links with Mossad.