UK police attempt to question Israeli politician over alleged war crimes


Tzipi Livni, Israeli foreign minister during 2008 Operation Cast Lead, says summons proves that UK justice system is 'theatre of the absurd'

A summons for Tzipi Livni was reportedly withdrawn after intervention from Israeli diplomats (AFP)
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Sunday 3 July 2016 11:54 UTC

Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni was this week served with a summons to be interrogated by UK police over alleged war crimes by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2008, the politician confirmed on Sunday.

Livni was in London on Sunday to speak at the Haaretz Israel Conference, a summit to discuss issues facing Israel and the UK.

She was served with a summons on Thursday to be questioned by UK police over alleged involvement in war crimes during the 2008 Cast Lead Operation, a three-week battle in the Gaza Strip that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.

The summons - which was sent by UK police to the Israeli Embassy in London - was withdrawn following the intervention of diplomats, Israeli daily Haaretz reported, and Livni was given immunity for the trip.

The questioning would have centred around alleged violations of the Geneva Convention committed by Israeli forces during Livni's time as foreign minister, which included Operation Cast Lead.

Livni on Sunday hit back angrily at the unprecedented move by the UK police, saying the UK justice system had become a “theatre of the absurd”.

“We do not summon UK ministers for questioning, and we expect the same respect,” Livni, who was to be summoned on a purely voluntary basis, told the conference in London.

“The British legal system is being abused – it becomes a theatre of the absurd with Israeli leaders [who] come to London.

“UK authorities shouldn't question Israeli ministers on their stance against the same war on terror that the UK is also engaged in,” she added.

“It's not my personal problem. This is a moral issue.”

She also warned in her comments to the conference that Israel is increasingly becoming a “ghetto” in the Middle East, and that the boycott campaign against Israel is creating a “defensive Jewish identity”.

Haaretz reported that the summons against Livni was cancelled after contact between the Israeli Embassy in London and the UK justice ministry, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was not in power during Cast Lead, reportedly kept informed of developments in the case.

The diplomatic contact between the UK and Israel ended with Livni's visit to London being granted the status of a “special diplomatic assignment,” meaning that she is granted immunity from prosecution or arrest.  

Previous visits to London by Livni have seen protests and calls for her to be investigated over her role in conflicts like Cast Lead.