Despite the recent issue of an arrest warrant against him for alleged war crimes, former IDF chief of general staff Moshe Ya'alon was still in New Zealand on Friday.
In an interview with Army Radio, Ya'alon said that he remained in the country and that he had not been able to respond to the allegations because he was "on a hike."
Ya'alon was spared from being arrested during his trip after the Auckland District Court issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes stating a "suspicion of committing a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949," a criminal offense in New Zealand under the Geneva Conventions Act 1958 and International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act 2000. The court issued the warrant after several lawyers contacted the police to urge Ya'alon's arrest.
The report also accused Ya'alon of being responsible for what they claimed were IDF actions in which "extensive human rights violations and war crimes" had occurred.
Despite the decision made by District Court Judge Avinash Deobhakta to have Ya'alon arrested, the local Justice Ministry canceled the warrant at the last minute.
"I am continuing to hike in New Zealand after a week in which I conducted public relations activities for the Jewish National Fund and for the State of Israel," said Ya'alon.
"I did not flee from anywhere nor do I intend to flee. I was out of reach, hiking in a forest, when I heard of the uproar in Israel," continued the former chief of staff."
Regarding the proposed legal proceedings against him, Ya'alon said, "I am fully aware of the intention to make a claim against me, but thankfully New Zealand is still one of the countries which enforces the law correctly and does not allow people who want to stir up public opinion to use Western means to attack people like me on a democratic mission, as opposed to those on missions of terror."
The IDF's former chief, who had been replaced just months before Israel's implementation of the disengagement plan in August 2005, was in the oceanic country for several days as part of a visit which included two conferences sponsored by the Jewish National Fund. Ya'alon was the keynote speaker at both events.
Demonstrations were held outside the venues of both conferences, a well-known member of New Zealand's Jewish community told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday afternoon.
"Both protests were peaceful," she said, "but the second protest drew 15 uniformed policemen to control the 70-strong crowd."
According to the human rights group, police who were initially presented with the issue turned to the Solicitor-General instead of arresting Ya'alon immediately. The Solicitor-General advised New Zealand's attorney-general to reject the prosecution's charges against Ya'alon.
"District Judge Deobhakta lifted the suppression order and confirmed in a ruling that the attorney-general's decision had brought an end to the proceedings," the report said.