Britain issues war crime arrest warrant for Israeli politician, then retracts

Britain issues war crime arrest warrant for Israeli politician, then retracts

: A British court issued an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister on Saturday. The warrant was later revoked when it emerged that the head of the opposition Kadima party had canceled a planned visit to the UK.

The move has been described by Israel’s foreign ministry as “cynical” and is the first time that a British court has issued a warrant for an Israeli minister or former minister. An Israeli foreign ministry official told Bikya Masr on Tuesday afternoon that the warrant goes against all international standards.

“We are glad to see it didn’t actually materialize. To have someone who has worked hard for Israel’s safety and security be handed a warrant for her arrest was absurd. We are looking forward to moving on from this controversy,” the official said.

But when pressed as to how Livni’s situation is different that Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, the official skirted, arguing “the Sudanese leader is accused of genocide in an international court, you can’t make similar comparisons with our government. Period.”

Livni played a large role in decision-making during Operation Cast Lead last winter in which 1,400 Gazans were killed, most of whom were civilians, according to Palestinian reports. Israel puts the number at 1,166, stating that the majority of them were combatants.

In October, the United Nations endorsed the Goldstone Report, which criticized the tactics employed by both Hamas and Israel during the conflict and accused them of war crimes.

Since the release of the Goldstone Report in September, British lawyers requested an arrest warrant for Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister. Their request was denied, however as Barak still maintained his position and was protected by the State Immunity Act of 1978.

Linvi, however, does not benefit from this immunity as she is no longer foreign minister. Tayeb Ali, the solicitor who attempted to gain a warrant for Ehud Barak announced that his firm is “ready, willing and able to act for clients to seek the arrest of anyone suspected of war crimes” who traveled to the UK.

By employing the principle of universal jurisdiction, pro-Palestinian campaigners have tried on numerous occasions to have Israeli officials arrested.  Universal jurisdiction allows any court in the world to try war crime suspects, even if they took place abroad by a non-citizen. It would, however, require Livni to be in the United Kingdom in order for her to be arrested.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced that it “rejects the cynical act taken in a British court against the head of the opposition, MK Tzipi Livni, at the initiative of extreme elements.” It also urged the British government to “act against the exploitation of the British legal system against Israel”.

The British foreign office said in a statement that it was “urgently looking into the implications of the case” and that the UK “is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East, and to be a strategic partner of Israel.”