October 4, 2011
Fears of arrest gone, Tzipi Livni to visit Britain
Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni will visit Britain this week now that a war crimes law that clouded Israeli-British relations and kept her away for fear of arrest has been changed.
Livni’s centrist Kadima party said she would travel to London at the invitation of British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who telephoned her last week, and would hold talks with him.
Neither Kadima, nor the British Foreign Office, which confirmed the visit, gave an arrival date for Livni. Israeli media reported the visit would begin on Thursday.
“As leader of the Israeli opposition she will have a number of meetings, including with the foreign secretary, to discuss UK-Israel relations and recent events in the region,” a Foreign Office spokesman said in London on Tuesday.
In a statement, Kadima said an arrest warrant had been issued in Britain in 2009 against Livni, foreign minister during the three-week war Israel launched in the Gaza Strip in late 2008.
Under a British law amended three weeks ago, private individuals could start criminal prosecutions, including for international war crimes, by applying to a magistrate for an arrest warrant.
Israel urged Britain to change the law in late 2009 after reports that Livni would have risked arrest on war crimes charges stemming from the Gaza war had she not canceled a visit to London.
Last year, Israel said it had stopped sending delegations to Britain for routine strategic talks out of fear pro-Palestinian activists would seek their arrest.
The new law requires the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before an arrest warrant can be issued in “universal jurisdiction” cases, where a case involves alleged crimes committed outside Britain.
Last May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s military adviser, a former commander of the air force, did not accompany him on a visit to Britain. Israeli media reports said the decision stemmed from fears of arrest.
In February, the chief spokesman of Israel’s armed forces at the time said he had visited Britain incognito.
Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Additional reporting by Adrian Croft in London; Editing by Angus MacSwan