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Officers’ trip to UK canceled due to concern of arrest
Itamar Eichner
Yediot Ahronot
January 5 2009

At the last minute, Israel canceled a work visit of Israeli officers to the UK due to concern that arrest warrants would be issued against them.

The Israeli delegation, comprised of officers ranking colonel, lieutenant colonel and major, was invited by the British army to examine military cooperation. Due to concern that warrants of arrest would be issued, Israeli officials contacted British government officials in advance and demanded that they guarantee that the officers would not be arrested. This is after two weeks ago, a warrant of arrest was issued against Opposition Chairwoman Tzippi Livni and earlier there were attempts to have a similar warrant issued against Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

To the great astonishment of the Israelis—the British announced last week that they could not guarantee that the officers would not be arrested. Consultations were held in Israel among the top echelons and it was decided: under the present circumstances, no risk should be taken, and the visit was canceled.

Danny Ayalon
Israel views this matter very seriously and officials say that it directly harms the security cooperation between the two countries. High-ranking officials also say that the situation that has been created in Britain is completely unacceptable and requires immediate legislative rectification.

The matter will come up today in talks that will take place in Israel between British Attorney General Baroness Patricia Janet Scotland with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and the legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, Ehud Kinan. Baroness Scotland arrived in Israel for a private pilgrimage with her family and she will take part in the “Israel and International Law” conference that is being held by the law faculty of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Israeli officials intend to make it clear to Baroness Scotland that Israel expects a change in British legislation that would ensure that officers and Israeli personages cannot be arrested in Britain because of lawsuits against them for their part in IDF operations. “The risk to senior Israeli figures does concrete and immediate damage to bilateral relations,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. He said “organizations that are hostile to Israel try to exploit the legal channels and legal tools to threaten the Israeli and British decision-makers, including the authorities of the attorney general herself, and to thereby create political facts that should be determined around the diplomatic negotiating table.” Ayalon warned that the situation created in Britain also caused damage beyond its borders, since it increased similar initiatives in other places in the world.

In the meeting with the British attorney general, Israel will also protest the boycott phenomenon against it. “Israel and Britain have a tradition of long-standing of close ties that includes cooperation in many areas, including financial, science, academia, military, culture and more. Precisely for this reason we are very concerned by the growing and intensifying trends of hostility toward Israel among certain communities in Britain,” said Ayalon.
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