Brown: Livni welcome in UK any time

Brown Livni welcome in

livni how many fingers (photo credit: Kadima )
livni how many fingers
(photo credit: Kadima )
Senior Israeli diplomatic officials told counterparts in the British Foreign Office Wednesday that Israel would issue directives to the country's political and military leaders to stop going to Britain if parliament did not take action to close the legal loophole that enabled an arrest warrant to be issued against Kadima head Tzipi Livni last weekend. The warning came even as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown phoned Livni and, according to Livni's office, said he was "completely opposed" to the issuing of the arrest warrant, and that she would be welcome in Britain anytime. Brown - like Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who called Livni the day before - promised to work to change the legal situation that has led to the harassment of Israeli leaders in Britain. A British judge issued the arrest warrant against Livni last weekend, thinking she was in the country attending a JNF event. Livni canceled her participation prior to the event, citing scheduling problems. The Times and Daily Telegraph, British newspapers generally supportive of Israel, both penned sympathetic editorials in Wednesday's paper. The Independent and The Guardian, which have been known to be vicious in their criticism, did not comment Wednesday on the matter. Under the headline "Abuse of process," the Times wrote that "the campaign for legal targeting of Israeli leaders is not merely frivolous; it is repugnant. It risks damaging Britain's relations with an ally, undermines the government's moral authority in promoting a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and brings the legal system into disrepute." The paper wrote that the campaign in Gaza was not a crime against humanity; "it was a chapter in Israel's history of trying to stop violence against its own civilians, which is a prerequisite of achieving the two-state resolution that [Defense Minister] Mr. [Ehud] Barak and Ms. Livni have worked for. You cannot reasonably criticize Israel's military tactics without understanding Israel's security needs." The Telegraph opined that Livni's decision to cancel a visit to London because of fears that she might be arrested had "not done much to enhance Britain's international reputation for fair dealing." In its eagerness to placate Islamic radicals, the paper wrote, "the Foreign Office is more inclined to indulge Arab leaders who advocate terrorism than Israelis who seek to uphold the values of the region's only democratic state. "David Miliband, the foreign secretary, justified his recent decision to resume contact with Hizbullah, the Iranian-backed, Lebanon-based militia that is committed to Israel's destruction, on the naïve grounds that it might help to persuade the group to renounce violence," the paper wrote. "But Mr. Miliband has been less forthcoming in condemning the sophisticated legal campaign by Hamas's sympathizers in London to prevent Miss Livni and other Israeli politicians from visiting this country," it continued. "At the very least, the foreign secretary owes Miss Livni an apology - and he should take immediate action to ensure that there is no repeat of this disgraceful treatment of one of Britain's key regional allies." But Ivan Lewis, the minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told Channel 10 that the situation could not be changed overnight. "Like in Israel, our judiciary is independent from the government," Lewis said. He said there were several options, including legislation, but warned that no "magic wand" could be waved to change the situation overnight. Lewis said the UK was "obligated to take the necessary actions so that [something similar] never happens again," but explained that the arrest warrant was a result of "unintended consequences of law." The UK government "opposes all boycotts of Israel" and is "determined to take whatever action is necessary so that Israeli leaders can visit us at any time," he asserted. Meanwhile, the European Jewish Congress issued a statement calling on the UK and other European nations to change their laws on universal jurisdiction in the wake of the Livni case. If not, the statement said, the EJC would consider applying for arrest warrants against those who backed terror and preached hate. "If the system is being manipulated to abuse Israeli officials, then we will have to look at ways of fighting back and using the same system against those who initiate and support terror," EJC president Moshe Kantor said. "This is not about tit-for-tat, but will demonstrate that there is a systematic hypocrisy inherent in a system where only one nation's nationals are targeted in this way, while those who preach violence and hatred and commit crimes against humanity through their terroristic attacks travel freely," the statement said. One government official said that while the British had been dragging their feet on changing their law on this matter for some five years, all it would take was an arrest warrant issued against one senior US official for the British to move more hurriedly. The official cited Belgium as a precedent, where war crimes complaints against former prime minister Ariel Sharon were dismissed in 2003 soon after similar complaints - based on the principles of universal jurisdiction - were filed against then-US president George W. Bush and his secretary of state, Colin Powell.