Israel’s Livni defies arrest threat

Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister and current leader of the opposition, has vowed to travel to Britain in the coming weeks, defying the threat of arrest for her role in last year’s controversial Gaza war.

In December, Ms Livni cancelled a planned trip to London at short notice, after it emerged that a British court had issued an arrest warrant for the Israeli politician for alleged war crimes. The move sparked an outcry in Israel, and elicited a promise from the British government to change the law as fast as possible with the aim of preventing similar situations in the future.

It is unclear, however, whether the legal situation will have changed before Ms Livni’s next visit.

Under the principle of universal jurisdiction – which is incorporated into British law but is also used in other European countries – suspects can be prosecuted outside their own country, as long as the case relates to the gravest violations of international humanitarian law, such as war crimes. Palestinian activists and human rights groups have repeatedly used universal jurisdiction provisions to pursue senior Israeli politicians and soldiers, in particular in the wake of last year’s Gaza war.

Ms Livni told the Jewish Chronicle she was now ready to test the British government’s commitment, and would be travelling to the country in the next weeks: “I will do this not for me, not for provocation, but for the right of every Israeli to travel freely. I am not going to be restricted by extremists because I fought terror.”

She added: “My intention is not to stay in Israel for ever. I don’t think as a decision-maker, who made decisions against terror, that I should plan never to leave Israel. The British fight terror, too. They do not remain in Britain. They travel.”

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