British court issues, retracts arrest warrant for top Israeli politician
Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni was the focus of an arrest warrant issued in London on Monday after Palestinian complainants brought a “universal jurisdiction” case against her over Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.
While the complainants were successful in convincing the Westminster Magistrates Court that forces committed war crimes on Livni’s orders, the court retracted its warrant when it learned that the Israeli politician was not visiting the country. Livni had intended to travel to Britain but canceled her trip allegedly over a scheduling conflict.
Speaking on Israeli army radio on Tuesday, Israel’s ambassador to the UK urged Britain to change the law, which has allowed groups to pursue charges against non-citizens for alleged crimes committed outside the UK.
“The current situation has become intolerable, it is time that it change,” Ron Prosor said.
“I am convinced that the British government will understand that it is time to react and not content itself with declarations.”
“We refuse to see a situation in which Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, and Tzipi Livni are called to trial,” read a statement issued by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. “We will not agree to have IDF soldiers and commanders, who defended their country and its citizens so bravely and ethically from a nefarious enemy, called war criminals. We reject this absurdity.”
“When the state of Israel has to do the right thing, it has to be done – condemnation or no condemnation, statements or no statements, arrest warrants or no arrest warrants,” Livni said on Tuesday, according to Al Jazeera. “This is the role of leadership, and as far as I’m concerned I would repeat each and every decision.”
The Sydney Morning Herald added: “Now the leader of the opposition party Kadima, Ms Livni played a central role in decisions made before and during the three-week Israeli offensive in Gaza. Palestinians say 1400 were killed, mostly civilians; Israel counted 1166 dead, most of them combatants.”
British officials were quick to condemn the court’s conclusions.
“The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East and to be a strategic partner of Israel,” U.K.’s foreign office said in a prepared statement. “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.”
A representative with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign told Al Jazeera that the situation was not an “embarrassment” for the U.K., adding that the British foreign office should not try to influence the court.
Pro-Palestine activists in Sept. 2008 failed in an effort to have Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak arrested. He was granted diplomatic immunity.
British Foreign Secretary David Milliband profusely apologized to Israel over the warrant after Israel threatened to block officials from traveling to the U.K.
This video was published to YouTube by Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009.