Ayalon: Situation with UK 'insufferable'

Livni warrant talks expe

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon met with Britain's Attorney-General Baroness Scotland of Asthal in Jerusalem on Tuesday, to discuss the issue of changing UK law to prevent the arrest of Israeli officials and officers. During the meeting, Baroness Scotland said that she is aware of the importance that Israel attributes to finding an urgent solution to this problem, and that the British are currently considering different courses of action aimed at solving the problem. Ayalon called the current situation "insufferable," and said, "This will make it difficult for the two countries to maintain a normal relationship." The deputy foreign minister also bewailed the manipulation that organizations hostile to Israel were making of British law to carry out their goals. He stressed that most Israeli citizens - not just political figures and high-ranking officers - serve in the IDF. It goes against Britain's best interests, he said, to deter Israelis from visiting the country. Shortly before the meeting it was revealed that a delegation of IDF officers canceled a planned visit to the UK last week, after the British hosts failed to guarantee that arrest warrants would not be issued against the invitees. An outraged Ayalon expressed concern that relations with London could be damaged by the current legal situation in Britain. While it was the Defense Ministry, and not the Foreign Ministry, which advised the officers against accepting the British military's invitation, observers believe that airing the story during Lady Scotland's visit might have been an attempt on the foreign ministry's behalf to put the topic high on the public agenda. The UK attorney-general's semi-private visit, scheduled months ago, comes less than a month after a British judge's arrest warrant for Kadima leader Tzipi Livni triggered a mini diplomatic crisis, and follows promises from the British government that it would finally act to close the loophole that made the threats of such arrests possible. Baroness Scotland is also expected to address the issue at a lecture at the Hebrew University on Tuesday night entitled "Lawfare: Time for rules of engagement?" Her lecture is being sponsored by the law school. Livni canceled a trip to the UK last month to address a Jewish National Fund conference after it was learned that a warrant for her arrest had been issued. At the time both British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband pledged to ensure that nothing similar would happen again. Israeli officials said that so far nothing tangible has been done to close the loophole in legislation that allows individuals to go to court and ask for an arrest warrant against an alleged war criminal, without the British government having to know about it and, as a result, not having any say about whether it should be issued. At the same time, the officials pointed out that the Livni affair exploded just prior to the holiday season in Britain, when very little government business is conducted.