Israel Warns Britain on War Crimes Warrant

Associated Press/
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister on Tuesday called a British arrest warrant against the country’s former foreign minister “an absurdity” and warned that attempts to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes charges over last winter’s Gaza offensive could harm relations between the two countries.

Benjamin Netanyahu also had his top aide Uzi Arad tell the British ambassador that Israel expected London to work to thwart such attempts, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.

Israel, Arad told the ambassador, “expects the British government to act against this immoral phenomenon that attempts to damage Israel’s right to self defense,” according to the statement.

Netanyahu rejected 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.”

Britain’s Foreign Office has said it was looking urgently into the arrest warrant against opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who was the foreign minister at the time of the Gaza offensive. It said Monday 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.”

The warrant against Livni was the latest in a string of attempts by pro-Palestinian activists to have Israeli officials arrested on war crimes charges, using a law that has allowed Palestinians to go after Israelis in British courts.

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