Tuesday, December 15, 2009

British Arrest Warrent against former Israeli Foreign Minister Tipzi Livni for war crime

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dec 15, 2009 17:55

Deputy FM: Livni warrant 'makes a mockery of universal jurisdiction'

The arrest warrant issued against former foreign minister Tzipi Livni in a British court "makes a mockery of universal jurisdiction," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Tuesday.
Ayalon, who was also the subject of a potential arrest warrant on a trip to the UK last month, urged the British government to address the loophole in the legal system making the warrants possible.
"I don't see how Israelis and other officials can continue to visit the UK if this troublesome situation continues," the deputy foreign minister said.
"There could be a big diplomatic cost if Israeli leaders cannot visit London and it will affect our relationship and will impact on the ability of the British government to contribute to the Middle East peace process which is not something we would like to see."

Israel: British arrest warrant threatens ties

By AMY TEIBEL (AP) – 1 hour ago
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected on Tuesday the issuing in Britain of an arrest warrant against Israel's former foreign minister for alleged war crimes, part of a Palestinian campaign against Israeli officials and soldiers.

Netanyahu had his top aide tell the British ambassador that Israel expected London to work to thwart such attempts, according to a statement from Netanyahu's office.

At the center of the dispute is a law that has allowed Palestinians to go after Israelis in British courts.

The statement from Netanyahu's office quoted the prime minister as rejecting the notion that leaders and army officers "who defended our civilians bravely and morally against a despicable and brutal enemy could be branded war criminals. We firmly reject this absurdity."

Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni was targeted for her role in last winter's brutal offensive against Hamas in Gaza, when she was foreign minister.

Israeli Public Information Minister Yuli Edelstein warned Tuesday that such attempts in Britain to pursue war crimes charges against Israeli leaders were harming relations between the two countries.

Netanyahu aide Uzi Arad told the British ambassador that Israel "expects the British government to act against this immoral phenomenon that attempts to damage Israel's right to self defense," according to the statement.

Livni's office refused to confirm media reports that she had been forced to call off a trip to London because of legal concerns. But on Tuesday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said a warrant had been issued for Livni. The ministry said the warrant for Livni's arrest was later canceled after officials learned Livni was not on British soil.

"We see it as really a diplomatic offense against the state of Israel," Edelstein told The Associated Press. "I think that it's high time that the British parliament does something about it. It definitely hurts relations."

Livni, a one-time 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.

Her support for that operation, launched 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."

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 2002 bombing of a Gaza home in which 14 people were killed along with a leading Palestinian militant — 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 © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Opposition leader TzipiLivni ElyseePalace inParis.

Last update - 19:09 15/12/2009

Miliband: Arrest warrant against Livni is insufferable

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

The British foreign secretary, David Miliband, denounced an arrested warrant issued in Britain for opposition leader Tzipi Livni as insufferable, after Israelwarned that the matter could harm ties between the two country. 

Also Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry summoned the British envoy to 
Israel to rebuke him over the warrant, issued for alleged war crimes in Gaza. 

Israel views the arrest warrant with utmost gravity, Naor Gilon, deputy director at the Foreign Ministry in charge of Western Europe, told British ambassador Tom Phillips. 


Gilon also called on Phillips to urge his government to change the law that allows for arrest warrants to be issued against senior Israeli officials over alleged war crimes perpetrated in 
Gaza during the winter conflict betweenIsrael and Hamas. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday issued a statement saying that 
Israel will not agree to have its leaders be recognized as war criminals.

"We will not accept a situation in which Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni will be summoned to the defendants' chair," Netanyahu said in a statement. 

Livni served as foreign minister alongside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak during the Israel Defense Forces offensive in
Gaza. The three figures comprised the "troika" of top decision-makers who charted the course of the war. 

"We will not agree to have Israel Defense Forces soldiers, who defended the citizens of 
Israel bravely and ethically against a cruel and criminal enemy, be recognized as war criminals. We completely reject this absurdity taking place in Britain," the premier added. 

Netanyahu also instructed National Security Council adviser Uzi Arad to call the British envoy on Tuesday to protest the move. 
Arad stressed to Phillips that Israel expects Britain to quash the "immoral act that allows arrest warrants to be issued against Israeli officials and harms Israel's right to self-defense." 

A statement from the British embassy in 
Israel said the U.K. is determined to work for peace in the Middle East and to be a strategic partner to Israel. 

"To do this, 
Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the U.K. for talks with the British government. We are looking urgently at the implications of this case." The embassy statement said. 

Israel's Foreign Ministry earlier Tuesday called on the British government to end the "absurd situation" in which arrest warrants were being issued to Israeli officials over alleged war crimes in Gaza, warning that ties between the two countries could suffer as a result. 

"Only actions can put an end to this absurd situation, which would have seemed a comedy of errors were it not so serious," said the Foreign Ministry, a day after it emerged that Livni had canceled her trip to Britain after a warrant was issued for her arrest. 

The ministry warned that in indulging the arrest warrant, the British government was hampering its own efforts at playing a role in 
Middle Eastpeace negotiations. 

"We appreciate the British government's desire to play a central role in the
Middle East peace process, and thus we expected it to translate the importance it gives its relations with Israel into actions," said the ministry. 

Israel urges the British government to once and for all honor its promises to take action to prevent anti-Israel forces from exploiting the British legal system to act against Israel and its citizens, the ministry said. The absence of resolute and immediate action to redress this distortion harms relations between the two countries," it added. 

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom urged the ministry to make "real diplomatic" efforts to make it clear that 
Israel would not accept such behavior. 

"We are all Tzipi Livni," he said. "The time has come for us to move from the defensive to the offensive. We must use real diplomacy here, to tell 
Britain,Spain and all those other states that we will not stand for this anymore." 

Livni: World can judge us, but don't equate IDF with terrorist 

In response to the warrant, Livni said Tuesday that she would not accept any accusation that compared Israel Defense Forces soldiers to terrorists. 

"I have no problem with the fact that the world wants to judge 
Israel," said Livni. "We are part of the free world. The problem starts when they equate terrorists and Israeli soldiers." 

Senior officials in 
Israel confirmed reports on Monday that a British court issued the warrant against Livni for her role in orchestrating Israel's military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip nearly a year ago. The request for the warrant was submitted by a pro-Palestinian organization. 

British sources reported late Monday that though a British court had issued an arrest warrant for Livni over war crimes allegedly committed in 
Gaza while she served as foreign minister, it annulled it upon discovering she was not in the U.K.

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 aGaza home in which 14 people were killed - was later canceled. 

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

UK court 'issued warrant for Livni'

Livni served as Israel's foreign minister during the country's war in Gaza earlier this year [REUTERS]

A British court reportedly issued an arrest warrant for Israel's former foreign minister on charges relating to Israel's 22-day war on Gaza, before apparently withdrawing it after it was found she was not in the country.
Tzipi Livni, the leader of the opposition Kadima party, had been expected to travel to London this week for an event organised by the Jewish National Fund, followed by meetings with British government officials.

Livni cancelled the visit two weeks before the event was due to take place.

Israeli media reported on Monday that Livni had called off the trip fearing that she would be arrested after a pro-Palestinian group won a warrant for her arrest.

But Livni's office said in a statement after the reports that she had declined a request to attend the event in London due to a scheduling conflict and not because of fears of being arrested.
'Threat of prosecution'
The British foreign office issued a statement on Monday saying it was looking into the incident and its possible effect on the peace process.

"The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in theMiddle East and to be a strategic partner of Israel," it 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."
Bill Bowring, a professor of law at the University of London, said the threat of prosecution is making international travel increasingly difficult for Israeli officials.
"This has happened before. It's under quite old legislation, under the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949," he told Al Jazeera.
"Basically what it says is that if a person anywhere in the world commits grave breaches against civilians then that person should be arrested and prosecuted wherever they turn up in the world."
Israeli land, air and naval forces began bombarding the Gaza Strip last December, saying that it wanted to stop rocket attacks by Palestinian fighters. 
In depth

 Video: Interview with Richard Goldstone
 Timeline: Gaza War
 Analysis: War crimes in Gaza?
 Goldstone's full report to the UN rights council
 Key points of the Goldstone report
 UN inquiry finds Gaza war crimes
 'Half of Gaza war dead civilians'
 PLO: History of a Revolution
 'Israel has to be accountable'

Al Jazeera is not responsible for external websites' content 

A UN-sponsored report, known as the Goldstone report, has called on both Israel and the Palestinians to investigate accusations of human-rights violations committed during the conflict.
The report accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, and was endorsed by the UN General Assembly last month by a margin of 114 to 18, after two days of debate.
Forty-four member-nations abstained from voting.
The report, which was compiled by a panel led by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, had already been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, which sponsored the fact-finding commission.

Most of the criticism in the Goldstone report was directed towardsIsrael's conduct during the offensive, in which it concluded thatIsrael used disproportionate force, deliberately targeting Gazacivilians, using them as human shields, and destroying civilian infrastructure.

More 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the offensive, while 13 Israelis, including 10 soldiers, died over the same time period.

Israel Urges Britain to Stop Warrants Against Leaders (Update1)

By Gwen Ackerman and Caroline Alexander

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Israel, reacting to reports that an arrest warrant was issued by a U.K. court for former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, said the failure by Britain to prevent such actions harms relations between the countries.
“If Israeli leaders cannot visit Britain in a proper, dignified fashion, this will, quite naturally, seriously compromise Britain’s ability to play the active role in the Middle East peace process that it desires,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said today in an e-mailed statement.
The ministry summoned British Ambassador Tom Phillips to stress the gravity of the situation, which, it said, will prevent Israeli leaders from visiting Britain until the issue is resolved.
A British judge issued the warrant for Livni, 51, on war crimes allegations connected to a 22-day Israeli military operation against the Islamic militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip that ended on Jan. 18, Al-Jazeera reported yesterday. The Qatar-based news channel added that authorities searched for Livni at a conference she was due to attend in London.
Livni’s office said she decided against the London trip two weeks ago because of scheduling issues. Westminister Magistrates Court said today that it had no record of having issued a warrant for Livni, following reports that it had done so. The Guardian newspaper said the court issued the warrant at the request of lawyers acting for Palestinian victims of the fighting, and withdrew it when it was discovered Livni wasn’t in Britain.
‘Strategic Partner’

“The U.K. is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East and to be a strategic partner of Israel,” the British Foreign Office said in an e-mailed statement. “We are looking urgently at the implications of this case.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he viewed the reported U.K. court action “with great severity.”
“We will not tolerate our soldiers and commanders, who defended our citizens in a heroic and ethical manner against a cruel and dreadful enemy, being denounced as war criminals. We absolutely reject this absurdity,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued to journalists by pager message.
The issuing of warrants against Israeli leaders in Britain isn’t new and comes across as “strange and off-the-wall,” said Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
“It doesn’t harm Israel and is not likely to have an effect either way on the peace process, where Britain and other European countries play an important role as main financers of the Palestinian Authority,” Spyer said by phone. “It is mostly embarrassing for the British government.”
Four years ago, the military warned Major General Doron Almog, former army chief of the Gaza Strip, not to get off a plane at London’s Heathrow Airport on concern he would be arrested. A warrant for Almog was issued after a British law firm and a Gaza-based Palestinian group alleged he had a role in the bombing by warplanes of a Gaza apartment building housing a Hamas commander. British police canceled the warrant a week later for procedural reasons, Israel said then.
“We demand Britain find an unequivocal and satisfactory solution to this absurdity, caused by an exploitation of the British legal system, turning it into a battering ram used against Israel and its leadership,” Foreign Ministry official Naor Gilon told Phillips today.
Gaza Conflict
Peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have been suspended for almost a year, after they were halted during the fighting in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority asked the United Nations General Assembly on Nov. 4 to seek prosecution of Israel for alleged war crimes during the Gaza offensive, as a necessary path to Middle East peace.
The UN said in a report published Sept. 15 that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the three weeks of fighting. The report was compiled by a team led by the UN’s former chief war crimes prosecutor,Richard Goldstone, a South African. On Nov. 5, the UN General Assembly voted to adopt a non-binding resolution calling for Israeli and Palestinian authorities to begin probes of their behavior in the conflict within three months.
Israel, which declined to cooperate with the UN investigation, has said the Gaza operation it called Cast Lead was a defensive response to eight years of rocket attacks from Hamas and other militant groups. The Israeli military has said that more than 10,000 projectiles were fired from Gaza into Israel since 2001.
“Previous Israeli governments tended to dismiss these kind of legal proceedings as marginal harassment,” Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University outside Tel Aviv, said in a telephone interview. “The Netanyahu government, because of the harsh reactions to the Gaza war, especially the Goldstone report, sees this type of demonization of Israel and Israeli officials through ‘lawfare’ as a much higher priority.”
Livni is “proud of all the decisions she made relating to Cast Lead, an operation that achieved its goals of protecting and defending Israeli civilians and returning to Israel its power of deterrence,” her office said in a statement. “This is Livni’s position, whether or not an arrest warrant is issued against her.” Livni currently leads Kadima, the largest party in the Israeli parliament.
Palestinians say 1,450 Gazans were killed in the Gaza fighting. Israel has put the number of Palestinian deaths at 1,166 and said 13 Israelis died.
The Palestinian Authority has conditioned resumption of the negotiations on a total Israeli construction freeze in the West Bank, and has called Israel’s 10-month building moratorium announced last month insufficient.
To contact the reporters on this story: Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem atgackerman@bloomberg.net; Caroline Alexander in London atcalexander1@bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: December 15, 2009 10:24 EST 

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