December 15, 2009
Editorial article in The Jerusalem Post; We’re all Tzipi Livni
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband have been sitting on their hands rather than push through legislation that would make it impractical for anti-Zionist campaigners to conduct “lawfare” against visiting Israeli officials.
The latest episode in which, to paraphrase Karl von Clausewitz, law is used as the continuation of war by other means, involved the threat to arrest former foreign minister Tzipi Livni on the nonsensical charge that she committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. According to yesterday’s Guardian, a British court issued the arrest warrant this week only to withdraw it when it turned out that Livni – apparently forewarned – canceled her visit.
Israel’s enemies still come away with a propaganda victory because reports that a high-ranking Israeli was accused of such heinous charges chip away at Israel’s legitimacy. Note that al-Jazeera on Monday headlined the Livni warrant story instead of immediately going live to Gaza for Hamas’s anniversary rally.
The British legal system adheres to “universal jurisdiction” in the matter of war crimes. A magistrates’ court need only be convinced to issue a warrant – based on claims by advocacy groups supporting the Palestinian Arab cause – for an Israeli official to be taken into custody for events that had nothing to do with Britain.
In September, Defense Minister Barak was about to be served with a warrant when the Brown government intervened with the court, citing immunity for officials carrying out their diplomatic duties. But Livni might have been exposed to arrest because, unable to schedule a meeting with Brown, her visit to address the Jewish National Fund could have been construed as private.
Pro-Palestinian groups have been engaging in lawfare since 2005, when Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog, former OC Southern Command, barely avoided being served with a warrant by remaining on his El Al plane at Heathrow. Unfortunately, he was forced to scrap his mission – to raise funds for adults with autism. There has been a succession of similar attempts against other IDF officers from Aviv Kochavi and Geva Rapp to Moshe Ya’alon; former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter was also a target.
Those who seek to humiliate the Jewish state mockingly assert that Israel led the way on universal jurisdiction by bringing Eichmann to justice.
Plainly, Britain so closely identifies with the Arab position on borders, settlements and Jerusalem that it no longer even feigns diplomatic evenhandedness. For the Foreign Office, the West Bank is simply the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” British officialdom reacted to Livni’s near-arrest by releasing the mealy-mouthed statement: “The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East, and to be a strategic partner ofIsrael. 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.”
What a perfect example of a bunch of words strung together devoid of substance.
The Brown-Miliband government – sadly with the acquiescence of some elements within the British Jewish establishment – has also been promoting a boycott of goods produced over the Green Line on the grounds that a Jewish presence anywhere beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines is illegal. The decision, according to the British Zionist Federation, was instigated by Oxfam (which you might have thought was a nonpartisan charity) and the EU-funded “War on Want.”
Too bad London prefers a boycott to a negotiated agreement on permanent boundaries which would equitably resolve the settlement issue. Moreover, Sweden’s recently failed effort to have the EU leap-frog negotiations between the parties by preemptively recognizing Palestinian claims to all of east Jerusalem was also strongly backed by the Brown-Miliband government.
Brown twice promised to propose legislation that would hamper lawfare by requiring Her Majesty’s Attorney General for England and Wales to approve the issuance of any war crimes warrant.
Some suggest Brown and Miliband have purposefully not fulfilled this promise to chastise Israel. Others say they simply lack the political capital to face down their own rabidly pro-Palestinian backbenchers and – just months before national elections – do not want to be dependent on the Tories to pass a law.
Whatever the explanation, this has not been Britain’s finest hour.
Tzipi Livni arrest warrant prompts Israeli Government travel ‘ban’
December 15, 2009
by Ian Black; Tzipi Livni arrest warrant
Israel hit back at Britain today over the arrest warrant issued for former foreign minister Tzipi Livni for alleged war crimes, warning that until the matter was resolved senior officials would not be visiting the UK.
Israelis prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, called the warrant absurd, the Ynet website reported.
The British ambassador, Tom Phillips, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem where a senior Israeli official told him the row over Livni meant that Britain’s ability to play a role in the Middle East peace process had been damaged.
The row erupted at the weekend when Westminster magistrates court issued an unprecedented warrant for the arrest of Livni, now leader of the opposition Kadima party, who was foreign minister and a member of the war cabinet during the Gaza offensive earlier this year.
The warrant was withdrawn amidst huge embarassment when it was discovered she was not in the UK.
The fact that it was issued in error – at the request of lawyers acting for Palestinian victims of the Gaza war – did nothing to quell Israeli anger. Israel’s foreign ministry called it a cynical move, and former defence minister Shaul Mofaz urged the recall of Israel’s ambassador to Britain “for consultations” in Jerusalem.
Ron Prosor, the ambassador, told Israel Army Radio: “The current situation has become intolerable, it is time that it changed. I am convinced that the British government will understand that it is time to react and not content itself with declarations.”
Israeli media reported that senior government officials would not visit the UK until Britain addressed the issue.
Livni had been due to attend a conference in London but her office said she had cancelled her attendance two weeks ago. Palestinian sources claimed to have seen her at the event and alerted the lawyers who were seeking the warrant.
“The lack of determined and immediate action to correct this distortion harms the relations between the two countries,” the foreign ministry said. “If Israeli leaders cannot visit Britain in a dignified manner, it will naturally be a real obstacle to Britain’s desire to have an active role in the peace process in the Middle East.”
It said Israel and Britain were engaged in a “common struggle against international terrorism”, and that British soldiers were trying to root out terrorism on several fronts around the world.
Palestinians claim 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the three-week offensive. Israel counted 1,166 dead, the majority combatants. Israel insists it acted in self-defence against Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza.
In September, pro-Palestinian lawyers attempted to invoke “universal jurisdiction” to arrest Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister during the war and afterwards. Barak’s status as a serving cabinet minister gave him diplomatic immunity.
In 2005, a retired Israeli general, Doron Almog, returned to Israel after landing in London because he was tipped off that police planned to arrest him. The warrant for Almog – who allegedly oversaw the bombing of a Gaza building in which 14 people were killed – was later cancelled.
Other Israeli leaders, including former military chief Moshe Yaalon and ex-Shin Bet security chief Avi Dichter, have cancelled trips to Britain in recent years for the same reason.