Is­raeli min­is­ter can­cels UK visit over ar­rest fear

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER ANDMARCUSDYSCH

A SPE­CIAL in­ter-de­part­men­tal team is ad­vis­ing Is­raeli min­is­ters and se­nior of­fi­cers to limit their vis­its to Bri­tain and three other Euro­pean coun­tries out of fear of be­ing ar­rested. The lat­est min­is­ter to can­cel a visit was Strate­gic Af­fairs Min­is­ter Moshe Ya’alon who was sched­uled to at­tend a JNF din­ner in Lon­don.

Ex­perts on in­ter­na­tional law from the for­eign and jus­tice min­istries, and the IDF At­tor­ney-Gen­eral’s depart­ment, have ad­vised cab­i­net min­is­ters with a se­cu­rity back­ground and se­nior IDF of­fi­cers not to visit Bri­tain, Spain, Bel­gium or Nor­way, while lawyers in th­ese coun­tries are seek­ing to ar­rest Is­raelis on charges of al­leged war crimes through “uni­ver­sal ju­ris­dic­tion” laws.

Mr Ya’alon, a for­mer IDF chief of staff, had ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion to speak at a din­ner in Novem­ber to raise funds for the Benji Hill­man Foun­da­tion, a project for lone IDF sol­diers in Ra’anana. The foun­da­tion built a home in mem­ory of the Bri­tish-born IDF of­fi­cer who was killed in the Sec­ond Le­banon War.

The min­is­ter was ad­vised by the in­ter­de­part­men­tal team not to travel to Lon­don as he was ex­posed to an ar­rest war­rant that pro-Pales­tinian lawyers could ob­tain for him. As IDF chief of staff in 2002-2004, he au­tho­rised the air-strike against the home of Ha­mas leader Salah She­hade in July 2002 in which 14 civil­ians, in­clud­ing chil­dren, were killed.

For­mer IDF ma­jor-gen­eral Doron Al­mog nar­rowly evaded ar­rest at Heathrow four years ago. Gen­eral Al­mog was the of­fi­cer in com­mand of the IDF’s South­ern Com­mand at the time of the She­hade­as­sas­si­na­tion.Trade­andIn­dus­try Min­is­ter, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was de­fence min­is­ter at the time, has also been warned against trav­el­ling. Mr Ya’alon’s of­fice is­sued a state­ment say­ing that the visit had been can­celled “to avoid play­ing into the hands of an­tiIs­rael pro­pa­ganda”.

Sa­muel Hayek, JNF UK chair­man, said: “It is re­gret­table that re­la­tion­ships be­tween Is­rael and the UK are ham­pered as a re­sult of the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to re­solve an out­stand­ing se­ri­ous diplo­matic is­sue that pre­vents se­nior Is­raeli states­men and politi­cians from con­duct­ing a nor­mal diplo­matic re­la­tion­ship with the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment.”

Re­quests for an ar­rest war­rant for De­fence Min­is­ter Ehud Barak, who at­tended the Labour con­fer­ence in Brighton last week, were blocked as he had diplo­matic im­mu­nity as a se­nior min­is­ter and an of­fi­cial guest.

The Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Cam­paign (PSC) cel­e­brated Mr Ya’alon’s de­ci­sion not to travel and wel­comed for­mer Is­raeli of­fi­cers’ fears of com­ing to Bri­tain. PSC’s Sarah Col­borne said: “Is­raeli war crim­i­nals must not be al­lowed to come into Bri­tain, walk freely and re­main un­pun­ished.”

Stay­ing put: Moshe Ya’alon

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