Israeli army spokesman used alias in London for safety

By Jennifer Lipman, February 9, 2011
Brigadier-General Avi Benayahu

Brigadier-General Avi Benayahu

A senior official in the Israeli army has revealed that fears about being targeted by anti-Israel activists prompted him to travel to London recently - in disguise.

More than a year after Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni cancelled a London speech for fear of arrest under Britain’s universal jurisdiction law, Brigadier-General Avi Benayahu found it necessary to visit Britain under an assumed identity and accompanied by security guards.

Mr Benayahu, who is chief spokesman of the IDF, told Ha'aretz newspaper that the precautions had been necessary despite the fact his background was in journalism and he had never fired a shot in his life.

He said he was told by advisers "that the moment they notice me, spot me at the hotel, thanks to the social network, there's a demonstration in front of the hotel in an hour.

“And you don't know how a demonstration will unfold."

He added: "One doesn't want a provocation."

Despite repeated promises by both the current government and its Labour predecessor to change the law on universal jurisdiction, which as it stands allows pro-Palestinian activists to apply for arrest warrants for visiting Israelis whom they accuse of "war crimes", it remains in place.

Proposed changes to require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions for such arrest warrants to be issued were included in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, announced in December. The bill is currently in the committee stage.

Last updated: 1:10pm, February 9 2011