Livni arrest warrant will be last, insists Miliband

By Martin Bright, December 17, 2009
Tzipi Livni meeting David Miliband in Jerusalem

Tzipi Livni meeting David Miliband in Jerusalem

The government has confirmed it will act to prevent Israeli politicians being vulnerable to arrest in Britain.

The move follows a furious reaction from Israel and the British Jewish community at attempts to arrest the Israeli opposition politician Tzipi Livni, who was forced to cancel an appearance at the Jewish National Fund conference she was due to attend last weekend.

Pro-Palestinian lawyers had obtained an arrest warrant for Ms Livni’s involvement in the Israeli war cabinet decision to authorise Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown phoned Ms Livni from Copenhagen to apologise for the situation. In a letter to the Jewish Leadership Council, Foreign Secretary David Miliband wrote: “I am determined to protect the ties of friendship that bind the UK and Israel as well as the relations between our two governments.For those links to flourish it is critical that Israeli leaders can visit freely.”

Mr Miliband conceded that previous safeguards had failed to prevent the threat to prominent Israeli visitors.

He said: “I agree that in this instance the measures we have taken did not work.

“I can assure you that, with the Prime Minister and other ministerial colleagues, I am urgently reviewing what measures we need to take to stop this sort of situation arising again.”

The Foreign Secretary agreed to consider a legal opinion obtained by the JLC from the celebrated human rights lawyer Lord Pannick, recommending that an arrest should take place only if the Attorney-General has given her consent.

The JC understands that David Miliband has been keen to push through a change in legislation for some time, but met resistance in Cabinet.

Attorney-General Baroness Scotland is due to visit Israel in the first week of January where she is expected to make an announcement on the new British position.

    Last updated: 4:50pm, December 17 2009