Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Israeli minister Meridor cancels trip to Britain out of fear for arrest, Israel suspends dialogue with UK

The Israel minister for Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Dan Meridor,  on Monday a planned visit to London, England, after receiving information that he might be facing a lawsuit or an arrest warrant upon arrival. 
He was due to speak at a fund-raising dinner organized by the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre.
Meridor was not a member of the cabinet of Ehud Olmert which staged the onslaught on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, but the Israeli Foreign and Justice Ministries notified him  that he might face charges connected to his alleged role in the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010. That raid resulted in the deaths of 9 Turkish activists. Meridor refused to comment on the cancellation.
Meridor is member of a forum of seven ministers that advises Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The forum discussed the arrival of the Gaza-bound flotilla in a meeting that took place on May 26, according to Netanyahu's testimony before a committee investigating the raid.

This is not the first case of Israeli politicians facing legal charges in Britain. In 2009, a British court issued an arrest warrant for Kadimah-leader Tzipi Livni over war crimes allegedly committed in Gaza while she served as foreign minister. Livni canceled her trip to London as a result of information of the warrant issued against her.

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 the Gaza home of a leader of the military wing of Hamas, Salah Shehadeh, in which 14 people were killed, including his wife and nine children - was later canceled.
Other Israeli leaders, including former military chief Moshe Ya'alon and ex-internal security chief Avi Dichter faced similar difficulties. The last one cancelled a trip to Spain last month, where he was to take part in a conference.

Update 4/11:
Israel has postponed all strategic dialogue with Britain in protest at a law which allows UK courts to prosecute visiting Israeli officials for alleged war crimes. Strategic dialogue between the two countries takes place annually and focuses on defence and security issues. "The strategic dialogue has indeed been postponed," Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman, said on Wednesday.
The development came as William Hague, the British foreign minister, arrived in Israel for a two-day visit. On top of the agenda would  the law that prohibits visits of Israeli politicians to Britain, Palmor confirmed. The law in question gives British courts "universal jurisdiction" to issue warrants against individuals accused of war crimes, including visiting foreign politicians. Britain's embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed that the government was taking the issue very seriously and said that a draft amendment to the law would be put before parliament "in the coming weeks".

No comments: