Ami Ayalon to visit UK, despite arrest threat

Ami Ayalon

Ami Ayalon

The former head of Israel’s secret service, Shin Bet, Ami Ayalon, has expressed his determination to take part in a debate next week at the London School of Economics.

Mr Ayalon, formerly a government minister and ex-head of the Israeli navy, is due to speak at LSE on Monday evening as part of a public discussion entitled “The Goldstone Report and the Peace Process”.

He is due to speak alongside Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers, who were on the panel of the UN Goldstone Report, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, which found both Israel and Hamas guilty of war crimes.

Palestinian activist and academic Karma Nabulsi will also speak.

But Mr Ayalon, who has spent the last 10 years deeply involved in Israel-Palestinian dialogue with his People’s Voice movement, co-chaired with Sari Nusseibeh, risks arrest for alleged war crimes if he visits Britain, and has been advised not to come by the Israeli government.

Last year Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni was forced to cancel a visit to attend a JNF lunch after a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Mr Ayalon told the JC that he had every intention of coming to London. “I was invited to present my views and ideas and I think that is a legitimate reason. I can’t accept the idea that nobody will be able to present his ideas unless he gets his orders from the Foreign Ministry.

"In a way I hope it will be a mirror for the British public to think that they have reached a point where people cannot present their ideas in a public debate. Britain is probably the only democracy to have reached this level.”

He added: “It’s OK if they arrest me. I can’t do anything about it. It is a risk I think we should take. In the circumstances you have now in London, it seems impossible. You hear only certain kinds of Israeli voices. I do not represent the Israeli government.

"But I will say, I would not come to London to debate the Goldstone Report, which I think is one sided and incorrect. I am coming to debate the Goldstone Report and the peace process. Goldstone is written in the language of blame. I believe the only way to respond is the language of responsibility, and the dictionary of the future.”

Last updated: 12:27pm, March 10 2010