The British government has granted temporary diplomatic immunity to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni so that she can visit the UK this week without worrying about possible arrest for alleged war crimes, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.
The move heads off efforts to secure a warrant for Livni’s arrest by pro-Palestinian London lawyers Hickman and Rose, related to Israel’s military incursion in Gaza in December 2008. The law firm requested that police arrest Livni for suspected war crimes, and to liaise with the attorney general to approve criminal charges.
Pro-Palestinian groups have in the past instigated legal action against Israeli officials, and the UK promised Israel it would change the law to protect them from such harassment.
In an address to the Israeli parliament last month, Prime Minister David Cameron said, “When I was in opposition, I spoke out when — because of the law on universal jurisdiction — senior Israelis could not safely come to my country without fear of ideologically motivated court cases and legal stunts; when I became prime minister, I legislated to change it. My country is open to you and you are welcome to visit any time.”
The British Foreign Office confirmed “special mission” status — effectively, diplomatic immunity — has been granted to Livni, who will meet Foreign Office ministers in London.
The government refused to disclose details of the decision, and opposition party critics objected to the secrecy surrounding such matters. “This prevents proper public scrutiny. Diplomacy should not override the legitimate role of the courts,” they said.