Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has booted an Israeli diplomat — widely suspected to be Mossad’s man in Canberra — out of Australia for their connection to the use of Australian passports in the murder of a senior Hamas leader earlier this year.

Israel itself is playing it cool, but the local Jewish lobby is likely to be less impressed. Never short on opinions and soapboxes, expect to hear more from them today and this week.

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop has already started fueling the debate, accusing the Government of trying to “curry favour within the Arab community” to secure a seat on the UN Security Council. This is the same Julie Bishop who criticised Smith for allowing Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer into the country last year because it might anger China. An anonymous AAP report today suggests the Government hasn’t forgotten this either, and predicts Smith and co will use it to deflect and distract any further criticism over the incident.

Stay tuned for more coverage and analysis in today’s Crikey Daily Mail.

In the meantime, here’s the first batch of op-eds on the issue from the country’s pundits. Expect many, many more — both here and abroad.

The Australian

Alan Gold: Smith went too far by expelling Israeli diplomat

A diplomatic slap on the wrist was called for. The expulsion of a diplomat is an over-reaction that will do neither country any good.

Greg Sheridan: Badly misjudged action will have a political cost

Well-informed sources tell me that Australian agencies have used foreign passports. … in the grey world of espionage many things happen which good friends do not use to embarrass each other.

Sydney Morning Herald

Editorial: No passports for murder

Dubai was a repeat offence. The rebuke has correctly been stepped up.

The Age

Michelle Grattan: Epulsion right, but risky

If accusations of political motives are flying, the opposition is as vulnerable as it claims the government is.

Mark Davis: With sorrow and regret, Smith declares cooling-off period with Israel

… a sign that the relationship between the two countries has been seriously damaged by the incident.

Herald Sun

Staff writer: With friends like this…

Mr Smith’s words need to carry more chill

Elsewhere…

Antony Lowenstein: Why it’s now time for Australians to start asking what Israel is doing in our country

how many journalists are asking what the hell these Mossad agents are doing here? Spying? Co-ordinating intelligence? Shopping for red roses?

Larvatus Prodeo, Robert Merkel: Hey everybody, look over there

I wonder whether the timing of the announcement about expelling some low-ranking Israeli diplomat had anything to do with tonight’s Four Corners report…

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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