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Israel’s top military officer skips UK visit fearing arrest

Source : Mohammed Mar`i | Arab News
RAMALLAH | 05 May 2011

A top Israeli military officer canceled a trip to Britain out of fear he would be arrested, a report said on Thursday.

The Israel Radio said that Maj. Gen. Yohanan Locker, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s military secretary, decided not to join the premiere on his visit to Britain for fear of being arrested over his role in the 2008-2009 Israeli large scale military operation in Gaza Strip.

The report said that Locker, who served as the head of the Israeli Air Force’s Air Directorate during the offensive, made the decision after consulting with senior officials and legal experts.

The Goldstone Report, conducted by a UN fact-finding mission led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, found that Israel had committed war crimes in its offensive which killed 1,400 Palestinians.

Amnesty International confirmed that 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the offensive. Of these, 300 were children, more than 115 were women and about 85 were men over the age of 50.

Amnesty said that another 200 of the men who were under 50 were unarmed civilians who were not combatants. Some 5,000 Palestinians were wounded during the fighting.

Amnesty International also found that more than 3,000 Palestinian homes and hundreds of other properties were destroyed during the fighting and more than 20,000 structures were damaged. In addition to private homes, the Israeli forces destroyed factories, workshops, animal farms, orchards, government buildings, police stations and prisons.

Pro-Palestinian activists have been eager to exploit the International Criminal Court Act of 2001 and the Criminal Justice Act of 1988 to arrest Israeli officials visiting the UK on charges of war crimes.

As a rule, even though there is no explicit warning against doing so, most defense establishment officials are avoiding travel to problematic destinations in Europe, such as the Scandinavian countries, Britain, and Spain.

This is not the first time that senior Israeli politicians are forced to cancel trips abroad or make a swift about-face once they landed at European airports.

In January 2010, an arrest warrant was issued in the UK against Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni in England over claims she committed war crimes when she served as Foreign Minister during offensive on Gaza.

In October 2009, Moshe Ya’alon, the deputy Prime Minister, was forced to cancel a fund-raising trip to London after lawyers warned he could be arrested in connection with a deadly attack he authorized as chief of staff.

In May 2009, pro-Palestinian groups sought the arrest of Defense Minister Ehud Barak in London for alleged war crimes during January’s offensive in Gaza Strip.

In 2005, retired general Doron Almog had to stay on a plane at Heathrow to avoid arrest after he learned a warrant had been issued against him for the demolition of scores of Palestinian homes by his Israeli forces on the Gaza border.

In 2004, when pro-Palestinian groups sought the arrest of then-defense minister Shaul Mofaz during a visit to London, a judge ultimately ruled that he did have diplomatic immunity, and could therefore not be arrested.


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