Livni dodges war crimes arrest in London

Livni dodges war crimes arrest in London

Opposition MK said to schedule meetings with UK politicians as a loophole to gain immunity from prosecution

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni in a Knesset committee meeting, June 3, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni in a Knesset committee meeting, June 3, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni was forced to use a legal loophole in order to avoid possible arrest over alleged Israeli war crimes when she attended the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit this week in London.

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 visit by Livni, a British court issued a warrant for Livni over alleged war crimes committed by the IDF during the three-week conflict. In the end Livni did not go through with the trip, and the threat of an arrest kept her out of the UK until authorities in 2011 granted automatic immunity to all Israelis on official visits to Britain.

However, Livni’s attendance at the recent women’s summit could have been considered a personal visit, leaving her vulnerable to arrest. To preempt the problem Livni, whose party leads Israel’s opposition, arranged to meet with senior UK government officials, enabling the Knesset speaker to approve her travel as an official visit, the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Wednesday.

As a result the UK courts rejected a request for a new arrest warrant, citing Livni’s immunity.

During her time in London Livni presented Tobias Ellwood, Britain’s parliamentary under secretary of state for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with an Israeli report on Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day long war the IDF fought against Hamas in Gaza during the summer of 2014.

The 275-page report, which officials say has been in the making ever since the war ended in late August, places the blame for the war’s casualties squarely on Hamas and armed factions operating in the Strip.

Livni, who served as justice minister in the previous government, also met with a contingent of British students to discourage them from supporting a boycott of Israel. At the beginning of the month the UK’s National Student Union voted in favor of backing pro-Palestinian activists’ calls for international boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, known as the BDS movement.

The students challenged Livni on Israel’s “extreme right-wing” government, and also recalled Benjamin Netanyahu’s election-day comments in March, in which the prime minister attempted to rally constituents with the warning that “Arabs are voting in droves” to oust his party from power. Netanyahu later apologized for the comments, which drew sharp criticism form opposition Knesset members.

Livni reportedly responded by telling the audience that the situation in Israel is complex, and that there is a difference between a specific Israeli government and the State of Israel.

Supporting the boycott is an act that targets the entire state rather than a specific government, she said, and is therefore collective punishment that won’t change the government’s policies.

According to the Yedioth report, two of the meeting’s attendees said they would rethink their attitudes toward Israel.

Livni also met with Jewish students who told her that it is becoming more and more difficult to defend Israel on campuses.

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