Tags: ML | Israel | Britain | Livni

Israel: British Arrest Warrant Threatens Ties

Tuesday, 15 Dec 2009 09:28 AM


An arrest warrant issued in Britain against Israel's former foreign minister was a "diplomatic offense" against the country, a Cabinet minister said Tuesday, warning that attempts in Britain to pursue war crimes charges against Israeli leaders was harming relations between the two countries.

The minister, Yuli Edelstein, urged the British government to revise a law that has allowed Palestinians to try to go after Israelis in British courts for alleged crimes committed outside Britain.

The law has caused several Israeli officials and retired military commanders to call off trips to Britain, and was most recently invoked to issue a warrant against former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Livni's office refused to confirm Arab media reports Monday that she had been forced to call off a trip to London because of legal concerns. Instead, it said the trip was canceled for unrelated reasons.

But on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said a warrant had been issued for Livni, and it urged Britain to make such legal actions impossible because diplomatic ties were suffering.

"We see it as really a diplomatic offense against the state of Israel," Edelstein, who serves as Israel's public information minister, told The Associated Press.

"By a very small change of legislation, the issue could be at least controlled, if not totally wiped off the map," he said. "So I think that it's high time that the British parliament does something about it. It definitely hurts relations."

Livni, a onetime lead negotiator with the Palestinians, enjoys a dovish reputation in much of the West. But as foreign minister, she staunchly defended Israel's devastating military offensive in Gaza early this year.

Her support for that operation, meant to end years of rocket fire by Gaza militants against Israel, has remained strong, despite widespread international criticism and allegations of war crimes due to the hundreds of civilian casualties.

Livni did not directly address the arrest warrant in a speech at a security conference on Tuesday, but said of her wartime conduct, "I would make the same decisions all over again."

She stepped down after February parliamentary elections and is now Israel's opposition leader.

The ministry said the warrant for Livni's arrest was later canceled after officials learned Livni was not on British soil.

The British Foreign Office said Monday it was looking urgently into the case, adding that Britain was determined to do its best to be a strategic partner of Israel.

"To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the U.K. for talks with the British Government," it said.

The incident was the latest in a string of attempts by pro-Palestinian activists to have Israeli officials arrested.

Pro-Palestinian lawyers attempted earlier this year to invoke the "universal jurisdiction" law to arrest Gaza war mastermind Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, but his status as a Cabinet minister gave him diplomatic immunity.

In 2005, a retired Israeli general, Doron Almog, returned to Israel immediately after landing in London because he was tipped off that British police planned to arrest him. The warrant against Almog — who oversaw the bombing of a Gaza home in which 14 people were killed — was later canceled.

Other Israeli leaders, including former military chief Moshe Yaalon and ex-internal security chief Avi Dichter, have also canceled trips to Britain in recent years for the same reason.

© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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