Israel vice premier cancels UK trip after arrest fears

By Jessica Elgot, October 5, 2009
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Moshe Ya'alon

Moshe Ya'alon

Israel’s vice-premier, Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon has cancelled a trip to London to speak at a JNF charity dinner over fears he may face arrest for war crimes.

Former IDF chief-of-staff Mr Ya’alon said the trip was “cancelled to avoid playing into the hands of anti-Israel propaganda” after the attempted arrest of Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak when he visited the UK last week.

He is believed to have sought legal advice before accepting the invitation to speak at the JNF event on behalf of Benji's Home, a charity for Israeli soldiers with no family in the country.

Legal advisers are said to have been concerned about possible charges connected to the 2002 assassination of a Hamas leader. Fourteen other people were killed in this operation.

The chairman of JNF Samuel Hayek expressed his "deep disappointment". He said: "It is regrettable that relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom are hampered as a result of the British government failure to resolve an outstanding serious diplomatic issue that prevents senior Israeli statesmen and politicians from conducting a normal diplomatic relationship with the British government."

There was an attempt to take out an arrest warrant against Ehud Barak when he visited the UK to speak at the Labour Party conference.

Deputy District Judge Daphne Wickham at Westminster Magistrates Court rejected a bid by a Palestinian group to arrest Mr Barak. She said he was in the UK on state business and not subject to lawsuits.

Any submission for an arrest warrant would come under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, and would allege that Israeli politicians have committed offences against the Geneva conventions.

The 1988 act gives British courts universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases

    Last updated: 9:56am, March 26 2010