British Foreign Secretary William Hague publicly promised on Thursday to make it
safe for Israeli leaders and IDF officers to land in London without risking
detention based on complaints of war crimes.
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Fearing such detention as a
result of Britain’s universal jurisdiction law, senior Israeli figures,
including opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor,
have canceled trips to Britain.
“We are acting to correct [universal
jurisdiction], as everyone should well know. I was critical of the outgoing
Labor government for not correcting it,” Hague told Channel 10 in an interview
taped during his two-day visit to the country.
He promised the law would
be changed within the next year, but asked Israel not to pressure his government
to move faster than the parliamentary process would allow.
“This is a
parliamentary system, and the government does not control all that,” Hague
“I would expect it to be in place next year, but we will continue
to do it to our own timetable. We do not need any intervention by other foreign
ministers in that process, including the Israeli one,” he said.
on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry officials noted that bilateral relations had been
directly affected, because Israeli officials could not safely travel to
They added that this included the strategic dialogue.
Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Office stated that another informal meeting on
strategic issues would soon be held in Israel.
It would not respond to an
AP report that the meeting had been moved from London to Israel because of
The Prime Minister’s Office said it “welcomed the
explicit commitment of the British government to amend the law on universal
Publicly the Prime Minister’s Office spoke in positive
terms of Hague’s visit, which concluded with a meeting Thursday with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Hague is the first high-level British
official to arrive in Israel since the Cameron-led government took office last
During the visit, a number of cooperative agreements were signed
with regard to film, science and the environment.
But behind the scenes,
officials spoke bitterly of the United Kingdom’s failure to amend the universal
An Israeli official noted that officials from three
British governments – David Cameron’s, Gordon Brown’s and Tony Blair’s – had all
promised Israel that it would change the law.
As it stands now, officials
said, the law can be “politically manipulated and abused” by those who hate
Every day, representatives from nations across the globe land in
London, including those who represent regimes with atrocious human rights
records, the officials said. “Why is it that only Israelis have trouble?” one
Universal jurisdiction was not the only point of tension
between Hague and Israeli officials.
He discussed allegations that the
Mossad used forged British passports when it allegedly orchestrated the
assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai.
In his Channel 10 interview,
Hague also said that Israel’s continued “blockade of Gaza was
And he called on Israel to renew its moratorium on new
“We want to see the peace talks back on track,”
he said, warning that if that didn’t happen, the window of opportunity for peace
might soon close.
Still, Hague spoke out strongly against boycotts of
Israel and attempts to delegitimize it, and stressed the UK’s opposition to such
As a member of the UN Security Council, Britain has been
involved in pressing for sanctions against Iran, and that country’s nuclear
threat was part of Hague’s discussion with the Israelis.
There is a
strong international consensus for sanctions against Iran, and that is the
preferred method of dealing with its nuclear threat, Hague said. He made clear,
however, that the threat of military action had not been taken off the
The Iranian nuclear drive “is one of the major threats to the
peace of the world, and we have to confront it,” he declared.
Minister’s Office said that “Israel and Britain maintain very close ties on
strategic issues, particularly on the Iranian issue.”