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Israel diplomat expelled by Britain over Dubai assassination passport forgery

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“It is serious. If, as a country, your passports are misused or faked, then it is not something you can ignore and it has created practical problems. Israel has got away internationally with doing certain things in the past because it is a democracy," he says, calling the expulsion Britain's way of telling Israel, "you misbehaved."

But there is a cumulative effect, he adds – and one that may play out in less public avenues.

“Between Britain and Israel there is cooperation on so many different levels. In a globalized world Britain can decide that something like this can end with an expulsion – but behind closed doors there can be repercussions," says Mr. Mekelberg. "The closer a relationship is, then the more painful the sanctions can be.”

Last expulsion: Iranian diplomats in June 2009

While action from London had been expected on the issue – the most serious cause of friction yet over a recent period of sometimes strained relations between the two countries – there was still shock value in the use of a sanction Britain has traditionally only deployed against states with which it has frosty relations.

The last time Britain expelled foreign diplomats from its soil was in June 2009, when two Iranian diplomats were told to pack their bags after Tehran ordered two British diplomats out.

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