A London court rejects Palestinian bid to arrest Israeli defense minister
Before the court ruling, defense minister Ehud Barak refused advice from the foreign ministry in Jerusalem to leave the UK after a Palestinian group sought an international warrant for his arrest for alleged war crimes in Gaza. He insisted on keeping to his schedule of conferences with British prime minister Gordon Brown and foreign secretary David Miliband Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 29-30.
The news reached Barak in at the British Labor Party conference in Brighton where he represented Israel’s Labor party of which he is chairman. The defense minister refused to consider leaving or heeding the Palestinian step in the light of Israel-UK ties as friends, allies and strategic partners. Last week, he hosted the British armed forces chief in Tel Aviv on an unannounced visit.
The Foreign Office asked the court to extend the defense minister immunity from prosecution and the court agreed that Barak enjoyed the protection of international law against suits of this kind. Later, Barak addressed a meeting of Labor friends of Israel attending by prime minister Brown. “We shall not let terror win the day,” he said and added: This is just the partial beginning of a campaign to free high-ranking Israelis, especially army officers, traveling to the UK and other countries from this sort of persecution by pro-Palestinian groups.
The Palestinians based their petition for his arrest on alleged war crimes and breaches of the Geneva Convention during the Israeli operation launched nine months ago to stop eight years of Palestinian missile and mortar attacks on its population. They claimed the operation was launched on his watch as defense minister. They also drew on the UN report in which former Judge Richard Goldstone accused Israel of war crimes in that operation. Israel rejected the report as pre-judgmental and biased.