December 15, 2009
Israel’s Government issued an angry warning today that its ties with Britain were in jeopardy over a UK arrest warrant briefly issued against the Jewish state’s Opposition leader and former Foreign Minister.
It has emerged that a London court issued a warrant at the weekend, for alleged war crimes committed in last winter's Gaza offensive, and then rescinded it when it became clear that Tzipi Livni was not on British soil.
On the orders of the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahi, the Israeli foreign ministry today summoned the British ambassador to receive a formal dressing down over the affront.
"We reject the court's cynical legal move against Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, which was initiated by radical elements," the Ministry said in a statement.
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"Israel calls on the British government to fulfill, once and for all, its promises and prevent an abuse of the British legal system against Israel and its citizens by anti-Israel elements."
The statement warned that relations between Israel and Britain would be damaged unless the UK took quick action to put things right.
“If Israeli leaders cannot visit Britain in a proper and honorable manner, this will naturally serve as a real obstacle to Britain's desire to take an active part in the peace process in the Middle East," it said.
The Israeli Ambassador to London, Ron Prossor, also criticised the arrest warrant. "The current situation has become intolerable, it is time that it change," he said. "I am convinced that the British government will understand that it is time to react and not content itself with declarations."
Ms Livni’s office had insisted that the reason she cancelled a scheduled visit to a Jewish group in the United Kingdom was because of a scheduling clash. Speaking at a security conference today she avoided mentioning the warrant, but said that she was proud of her role in Operation Cast Lead, a devastating Israeli offensive against Gaza militants firing rockets into Israel. Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died during the three-week war.
An investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council have accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and called for both sides to investigate the allegations or be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Israel vehemently rejected the inquiry and accused the UN committee of bias.
The Foreign Office said today that it was urgently assessing the implications of the warrant. "The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East, and to be a strategic partner of Israel," a spokeswoman said. "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."
The warrant was just the latest attempt by pro-Palestinian groups to use British courts to seek the arrest of Israeli leaders whom they accuse of war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In October, Moshe Yaalon, the deputy Prime Minister, was forced to cancel a fundraising trip to London after lawyers warned he could be arrested in connection with a deadly attack he authorised as chief of staff. It killed a wanted Hamas militant chief, his wife and nine children in the Gaza Strip in 2002.
That incident came shortly after activists tried and failed to obtain a British warrant against Ehud Barak, the Defence Minister during the Gaza war who has retained his post under new the right-wing government.
And in 2005, retired general Doron Almog had to stay on a plane at Heathrow to avoid arrest after he learned a warrant had been issued against him for the demolition of scores of Palestinian homes by his Israeli forces on the Gaza border
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/u ... 957495.ece
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