IDF officers abstain from UK visits for fear of arrest
Israeli officers invited to UK by British army unable to depart since European nation cannot vouch that they won't be arrested in its territory. Deputy foreign minister says current situation could undermine good relations between countries. Meanwhile, British attorney general visits Holy Land, slated to meet justice minister
Israel has canceled the departure of a military delegation to Britain last week after British authorities could not vouch that Israel Defense Forces' officers would not be arrested. The delegation was slated to include four to five officers invited to the UK by the British army.
Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has approached the British government in order to ensure that the officers, a colonel, lieutenant colonel and a major, would be able to stay on British soil without fear.
The British authorities could not make such a promise and therefore the delegation's visit was canceled.
The incident is viewed with great severity by Israeli government officials.
Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said that "should we not get the appropriate securities and if the British law remains unchanged, Israeli officers and seniors will not be able to travel to Britain, which would undermine the good relations between the two countries who share common values and interests. The British must bear in mind that these visits serve both countries."
Meanwhile, British Attorney General Baroness Patricia Janet Scotland is currently visiting Israel and is expected to meet with Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman and elements from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Israeli side is slated to stress that it expects a change in British legislation that would prevent any arrests. Israeli elements are also expected to assert that British-Israeli relations are in danger of being cynically exploited by hostile Palestinian elements. The Israelis also noted incidents that could jeopardize relations, for example the academic and commercial boycott of Israel.
Several weeks ago an arrest warrant was issued in the UK against Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni. Following the incident British authorities stated that a significant change is planned which would require the approval of any arrest warrant of suspects of war crimes by the attorney general.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke to Livni after the incident and told her he strongly opposed the arrest warrant issued against her and stressed that she was "most welcome" in Britain at any time and that he planned to work to change the current legal situation.
British Foreign Secretary David Milliband also commented on the affair and said that the British government would act with expediency to change the insufferable situation caused by the issuing of a warrant.
The Muslim Council of Britain expressed regret over Miliband's statements. In a letter forwarded to the foreign secretary MCB General Secretary Mohammad Abdul Bari said: “You appear to be committing the government to the path of selective compliance with the enforcement of international law.
"This is surely not in the best interests of our country as it will add a further dimension to the double standards that our government is seen to have in relation to the politics of the Middle East."