Thursday, December 17, 2009

Israel furious at Livni arrest warrant.

I find this breathtaking:

Israel yesterday reacted furiously to the news that a warrant had been issued in Britain for the arrest of its former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, warning that the move by a London court threatened bilateral relations, and issuing a threat to end official visits to Britain unless there was a change in the law.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the move "an absurdity". An embarrassed Foreign Office, meanwhile, distanced itself from the legal action, saying that "Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British Government" for the good of the two country's relations.

But the British ambassador in Jerusalem, Tom Phillips, nonetheless received a dressing-down from senior Israeli officials. Naor Gilon, deputy director of the European division, told Mr Phillips that "if this persists the situation would force us to consider whether officials should go to Britain or not." According to a statement, Uzi Arad, an aide to Mr Netanyahu, demanded the British Government take parliamentary action to "act against this immoral phenomenon".

So, according to the Israelis, the British government obeying international law is an "immoral phenomenon."

The concept of "universal jurisdiction" is central to international law as it is obvious that anyone who commits war crimes - and retains power in their own country - is highly unlikely to face charges at home, therefore, it is essential that they can be prosecuted in any country that can arrest them.

This was the principle which led to the arrest of Pinochet in London. Indeed, the Israelis took it further than any other nation when they sent Mossad agents to Argentina to seize Adolf Eichmann, so the Israelis cannot be against the principle, as much as they are expressing horror that such a principle could ever be applied to them.

Despite the fact that the UN have voted to approve the Goldstone report, which states that Israel committed war crimes, we still have people like Netanyahu expressing outrage and demanding that Britain change it's laws to prevent Israeli politicians facing the possibility of arrest.

"By a very small change of legislation, the issue could be at least controlled if not totally wiped off the map," the Israeli information minister, Yuli Edelstein, told AP. An Israeli foreign ministry statement warned that Britain could not "fulfil an active role in the peace process" if Israeli leaders are unable to visit Britain.

Last night the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, reassured Israel that it was "a strategic partner and a close friend of the UK" whose leaders "must be able to visit and have a proper dialogue with the British Government". He added that London was "looking urgently" at ways in which the "UK system might be changed in order to avoid this sort of situation arising again".

Quite why Miliband is bending over backwards like this is utterly beyond me. Israeli leaders already enjoy diplomatic immunity whilst travelling in Britain, the problem here was that, as she is no longer in government, Livni no longer enjoys such immunity.

At the moment Livni has no "active role in the peace process" so the threat - that Britain will be excluded from the process should Livni not be allowed to travel freely - strikes me as a particularly dishonest one.

And, make no mistake, Livni was utterly complicit and unapologetic about the actions which the UN have decided were war crimes.
More than two weeks into the war she told Israeli radio: "We have to prove to Hamas that we have changed the equation. Israel is not a country upon which you fire missiles and it does not respond. It is a country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild and this is a good thing."
"Going wild". That wildness resulted in the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians.

And, as I say, she has never expressed a single word of remorse.
Ms Livni was unmoved by news of the warrant. "From my viewpoint I would take all the [same] decisions again, one by one," she said in a speech to the Institute for National Security Research.
So I don't think British law should be changed to accommodate the Israelis on this matter. Rather the Israelis should learn that they can't "go wild" whenever they go to war and that there are international standards which they are expected to upkeep.

When you don't abide by those standards then there is always the possibility that one could find oneself labelled a war criminal. And, after the carnage in Gaza, that's a label which Livni may very well have earned.

Netanyahu, and to a lesser extent Livni, appear to be arguing that they can carry out any atrocity as long as they can say that they are "fighting terror".

The world, through the United Nations, has already rejected their argument. That's why Miliband is wrong to propose changing Britain's laws so that this can't happen again.

The notion of "universal jurisdiction" is one which the Israelis themselves have deployed. Their objection in this case is simply that such a principle should now be applied to themselves.

Click here for full article.

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