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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

British court issues arrest warrant for Livni

Al-Guardian confirms that a British court issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni because of her role in Operation Cast Lead last year.
A British court issued an arrest warrant for Israel's former foreign minister over war crimes allegedly committed in Gaza this year – only to withdraw it when it was discovered that she was not in the UK, it emerged today.

Tzipi Livni, a member of the war cabinet during Operation Cast Lead, had been due to address a meeting in London on Sunday but cancelled her attendance in advance. The Guardian has established that Westminster magistrates' court issued the warrant at the request of lawyers acting for some of the Palestinian victims of the fighting but it was later dropped.

The warrant marks the first time an Israeli minister or former minister has faced arrest in the UK and is evidence of a growing effort to pursue war crimes allegations under "universal jurisidiction". Israel rejects these efforts as politically motivated, saying it acted in self-defence against Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza.


The Foreign Office, clearly deeply embarrassed by the episode, said in a statement: "The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East and to be a strategic partner of Israel. To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government. We are looking urgently at the implications of this case."

Livni's office said she had decided in advance not to come to the UK but lawyers seemed unaware of that when they approached the court last week. The judge refused to issue the warrant until it was clear Livni was in fact in the country, as he was erroneously informed on Sunday.
But here's the even crazier part. The Guardian goes on to report that ministers who wish to visit the UK are seeking to schedule meetings with British government officials to provide cover (i.e. a diplomatic mission that provides diplomatic immunity) so that they cannot be arrested. Ex-ministers like Ehud Olmert and Livni are not covered by meetings with British government officials and are still subject to arrest.

Why are we doing this? Why don't we just say no Israeli cabinet minister or MK goes to the UK (or Spain) until it passes a law repealing universal jurisdiction? Why should we treat visits to the UK any differently than visits to Syria or Lebanon (an Arab MK was indicted this week for visiting Syria two years ago)? If the British government feels a need to take part in the 'peace process,' let Gordon Brown or David Miliband get off his butt and fly here and announce to the Knesset that he wants to make peace. Hasn't the British government made itself as much of an enemy as Syria and Lebanon?

Perhaps the ministers feel a need to go to London because the theater is better than it is in Damascus or Beirut. If so, that's a lousy excuse.

Caveat: I happen to love London, but I'm not a government minister and no one has threatened (so far) to arrest me for my activities during Operation Cast Lead. I was last in London for real (as opposed to just changing planes) three years ago.

JPost adds:
Al-Jazeera had reported Monday that Livni declined a request to lecture in Britain due to fears of being arrested. The court reportedly issued the arrest warrant against Livni for alleged "war crimes" committed during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last winter, when she was foreign minister. It apparently annulled the warrant shortly afterwards upon realizing that Livni was not in the UK at the time.

Livni's office and the Foreign Ministry refuted the report, saying the Kadima leader had canceled the visit only due to her inability to obtain a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
A meeting with Brown would have given her a colorable argument for diplomatic immunity.
Israeli ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor met with officials in the British Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry, who denied that there had been any warrant issued or requested for Livni's arrest.
Talk about the right hand not knowing what the left is doing.

On this issue, the coalition and the opposition are united.
At the the opening of the Knesset's winter session in October, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to calls for the indictment of Israeli leaders and soldiers over Cast Lead, saying that Israel would not allow them to be tried at The Hague.

"We will not agree to a situation in which [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert, [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, who sent IDF soldiers to defend cities and civilians, will be called to the defendants' benches at The Hague," Netanyahu said. "Israel's basic rights to self-defense and to exist as a Jewish state are under continued attack, which has become even stronger following the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. Our first mission is to repel them."


At 3:20 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel can respond by revoking diplomatic immunity for officials from Western countries hostile to Israel. If Israeli officials are going to be subject to arrest abroad, there is no reason for foreign officials to come to Israel to enjoy immunity. Such a move would be both precautionary and retaliatory. Israel ahouldn't have to sit there and take "lawfare" abuse.



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