Israel’s former head of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, was briefly held up at Heathrow Airport in London this week for reasons which are as yet unclear.
Yadlin — the Zionist Union’s designated candidate for defense minister had it formed a government after the last elections — was heading a delegation from the Institute for National Security Studies, including former IDF chiefs Gabi Ashkenazi and Dan Halutz, former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former national security advisor Yaakov Amidror.
Yadlin was stopped at passport control by border officials.
“It was only for a few minutes,” Yadlin told Channel 10 on Friday, dismissing the incident. “I was not arrested; I was not questioned,” he added.
“We were part of a dialogue mission to the UK. Everyone else went through passport control. I was help up for about 10 minutes. They probably had something [that showed up] on their computers that they had to check. They didn’t say or explain anything. They asked a few questions. After about 10 minutes, I was sent on my way,” Yadlin said.
Israeli officials have been targeted in the past by UK lawyers representing pro-Palestinian groups, who have taken advantage of legal loopholes and sought to have them arrested for alleged breaches of international law under terms of universal jurisdiction.
In 2011, Britain changed the law to make it more difficult to obtain arrest warrants against Israeli figures by requiring the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. But the law applies to those visiting Britain in an official capacity. Those making trips of a personal nature are left vulnerable.
Last month, former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, who quit politics and is now a private citizen, found himself in such a situation as reports surfaced that he could face arrest upon arrival at Heathrow, not having obtained diplomatic immunity ahead of the trip. He traveled to London for a conference and back without incident.
A favorite Israeli target before the British law was amended was former justice minister and then-head of the Hatnua party Tzipi Livni, who has repeatedly dodged attempts by activists to seek her arrest while on trips to the UK.
In June, Livni avoided possible arrest when she attended the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit in London, which could have been considered a personal visit, leaving her unprotected. To preempt the problem Livni arranged to meet with senior UK government officials, enabling the Knesset speaker to approve her travel as an official visit. Anti-Israeli activists applied to have an arrest warrant issued for Livni, who was foreign minister during the 2008-2009 war in the Gaza Strip.
In 2009, ahead of a planned trip, a British court issued a warrant for Livni over alleged war crimes committed by the IDF during the three-week conflict. She did not go through with that trip.