Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter recently cancelled a planned visit to the UK for fear that an arrest warrant would be issued against him by local authorities over the July 2002 assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Salah Shehadeh.
Dichter served as Shin Bet chief during the aerial attack on Shehadeh's Gaza home, which also left 14 Palestinian civilians dead.
Haaretz has reported that Dichter was invited to speak before a British research institute at the beginning of January, but past cases in which arrest warrants were issued against senior IDF officials prompted the minister to consult with the Foreign Ministry, which suggested that he cancel the trip.
According to British law, citizens may file complaints against "war criminals" and demand that the courts issue arrest warrants against them. Local Palestinian groups have repeatedly taken advantage of this clause.
Following Shehadeh's death, a criminal lawsuit was filed in Britain against Israeli security officials allegedly involved in the attack.
Just one of manyIn September 2006, former IDF Southern Commander Major-General (res.) Doron Almog was forced to abandon plans to visit Britain at the last minute, after Muslim groups charged him with crimes against humanity for "his military role against the Palestinian people." Israel's ambassador in London, Tzvi Hefetz, spoke with Almog during the flight, advised him not to get off the plane, and said if he entered Britain he would be served with the claim.
Immediately upon landing in London, Almog returned to Israel.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and ex-Gaza Division Commander Aviv Kochavi have refrained from visiting Britain for the same reason.
A US federal court ruled in May 2007 that Dichter could not be indicted for his part in Shehadeh's assassination.