London streets not so safe for Israelis

Netanyahu’s military adviser, Maj.-Gen. Yohanan Locker, avoids UK for fear of arrest over Operation Cast Lead war crimes allegations.

British Anti-Israel Protest 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
British Anti-Israel Protest 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s military secretary, Maj.-Gen. Yohanan Locker, did not accompany the prime minister on his trip to London for fear he might be arrested, Channel 1 reported on Wednesday evening.
Locker is a permanent member of Netanyahu’s entourage, but he was warned that since the British law on universal jurisdiction had not yet been changed, he might be detained upon landing in the UK over allegations of war crimes that human rights groups have accused Israel of committing during Operation Cast Lead.
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Locker was deputy head of the Israel Air Force during the Gaza offensive two years ago.
In the past, several Israeli officials canceled visits to the UK after being advised by the Foreign Ministry that pro-Palestinian NGOs planned to take advantage of British law to arrest them when they set foot in the country.
In December 2009, an arrest warrant was issued for opposition leader Tzipi Livni. She served as foreign minister in the Kadima-led government that initiated the operation.
At the time, British foreign secretary David Miliband called her and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and according to a statement put out by Livni’s office, expressed “shock” at the warrant, and promised to work immediately to ensure that a similar occurrence would not happen in the future against any Israeli official.
“The procedure by which arrest warrants can be sought and issued – without any prior knowledge or advice by a prosecutor – is an unusual feature of the system in England and Wales,” Miliband said in a statement.
“The government is looking urgently at ways in which the UK system might be changed in order to avoid this sort of situation arising again.”
The Labor government, in which Miliband served, did not change the law. In July last year, two months after the current British government took power, Israeli diplomatic officials lauded its announcement of plans to amend it.
UK officials said the government of Prime Minister David Cameron was moving on the issue, whereas the previous Labor government provided empty rhetoric.
The British government said the planned change to the law was designed to stop “possible abuse by people trying to obtain arrest warrants for grave crimes, on the basis of flimsy evidence to make a political statement, or to cause embarrassment.”
As of Wednesday – a full 10 months after the Conservatives’ proclamations – Locker, an integral member in Netanyahu’s circle of advisers, still preferred to remain in Israel rather than risk arrest in London.