UK – Tzipi Livni Summoned By British Police Over Suspected Gaza War Crimes
Livni is currently in London to attend the Haaretz Israel Conference; The summons was cancelled after diplomatic contacts between Israel and Britain.
HAARETZ – Former Foreign Minister MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) received a letter from the British police last Thursday, with an unprecedented summons for questioning regarding a suspicion of involvement in war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008. Livni is currently in London to attend the Haaretz Israel Conference. The summons was cancelled after diplomatic contacts between Israel and Britain, at the end of which Livni received immunity.
A senior official in Jerusalem, who requested anonymity due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the affair, said that on Thursday the Israeli Embassy in London received a letter from the Scotland Yard’s war crimes unit, which it was asked to deliver to Livni. The letter noted that the British police was aware that Livni is expected to arrive in London during the weekend and therefore is requested to go to the police station for questioning.
The questioning was meant to discuss Livni’s involvement in committing war crimes and violations of the Geneva Convention, as the foreign minister and vice prime minister, and as a member of the diplomatic-security cabinet during the 2008 Cast Lead operation in Gaza. In recent years pro-Palestinian organizations have filed a series of complaints against senior Israeli officials, including Livni, regarding the operation. The file against Livni is at a very advanced stage.
The letter was received two days before Livni’s planned visit to London to participate in a conference organized by Haaretz and the Jewish community there. The senior official said the letter stressed the fact that the questioning was “on a voluntary basis” and by consent only, and was designed to receive information and clarifications from Livni regarding the suspicions against her.
The letter containing the invitation for questioning was highly irregular and in fact unprecedented. After receipt of the letter urgent contacts began between the Israeli Embassy in Britain and the Justice Ministry and Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, in an attempt to find a solution to the issue. The senior official noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was kept informed of the details, as were Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.
At a certain point contacts also began with the British government, for fear that Livni would be arrested upon her arrival in London or during her stay there, despite the fact that Scotland Yard stressed that this was not a summons to an investigation under caution, for which attendance is obligatory. After the diplomatic contacts it was agreed with the British Foreign Ministry that a meeting would be arranged for Livni with the minister in charge of Middle Eastern affairs, and that Livni’s visit to London would acquire the status of a “special diplomatic assignment,” which would automatically grant her immunity from arrest and prosecution.
At the same time, the Israeli Embassy in Britain informed Scotland Yard that Livni would not be coming in for questioning.
During the Haaretz conference in London on Sunday, Livni referred to the letter she received and said that the legal threat for Israeli leaders arriving in Britain was a diplomatic problem between the two countries, to which a solution should be found once and for all.
Livni said that she came to the conference to “speak about what I represent, the desire for peace,” but added that for years, every one of her visits in the U.K. is subjected to a legal threat due to arrest warrants that are issued against her, following an Israeli military operation against Hamas in Gaza.
Livni said that in light of the police summons, she decided to address the issue publically. “”I’m proud in the decisions that I made as a cabinet minister in the Israeli government,” she said. Livni slammed Hamas, stressing that it is also defined as a terrorist group in Europe, and said that the group’s religious ideology was not directed at establishing a state, but to fighting Jews and Christians. Livni said Hamas was attacking Israel despite the fact that Israel left the Strip and removed its settlements there. “Just two days ago Hamas targeted a children center in Sderot, thank god it was closed” she said.
Livni said she rejects any comparison between Israeli soldiers or air force pilots, who try to avoid harming civilians, and terrorists, as well as any one comparing a Hamas arch-terrorist who gives an order and Israeli decision makers. “The British legal system is being abused,” she said.
Livni said that Israel is open to visits by British ministers, and that Israel was not questioning their decisions in cabinet. Israel, she said, respects British fight against global terrorism and therefore expects Britain to respect Israel.
“The fact that Israeli decision makers and army commanders are forced to participate in the ‘theater of the absurd’ when we come to London is something that is not acceptable. It’s not a personal issue, it’s a moral issue and this is something that needs to be changed,” she said.
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