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Britain apologizes to Livni over arrest warrant
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British Foreign Secretary David Milliband yesterday apologized to MK Tzipi Livni and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for the arrest warrant issued against Livni in London earlier this week. He also promised Lieberman to begin working immediately to change the UK laws that enable the issue of arrest warrants against Israeli officials accused of war crimes.

Britain's ambassador to Israel, Tom Phillips, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem for a reprimand over the matter. He also received a phone call from an infuriated Uzi Arad, Israel's national security adviser, sources in Jerusalem said. In London, Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor met with Milliband and demanded a change to the laws.

The Foreign Ministry's Deputy Director General for Western Europe, Naor Gilon, told Phillips that Israel demands an unequivocal solution to the problem. "If there is no honorable solution to the problem, our officials will stop visiting Britain," Gilon said. Arad told Phillips that the arrest warrant was "an immoral act aimed against Israel's right to self-defense."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office also released a statement. "We will not agree to a situation in which [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert, [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak and [opposition leader and former foreign minister] Tzipi Livni will be summoned to the bench," the statement read. "We utterly reject the absurdity that is happening in Britain."

British officials also appeared taken aback by the arrest warrant as well as by the Israeli response. Milliband received the Israeli ambassador without delay. During their meeting, which continued for more than an hour, Milliband called the warrant intolerable and said he had spoken to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Justice Minister Jack Straw to find an urgent solution.

Prosor chastised the British secretary saying it was time the British government took action.

"There was a total meltdown of the entire British system here. No on knew what was going on, who filed the demand for charges, when and for what," Prosor claimed. Milliband embarrassedly replied that "we too were surprised by the warrant."

After the meeting, Milliband himself called Lieberman and Livni to make his apologies. We must find a solution to ensure this kind of thing doesn't repeat itself, he told Lieberman, adding that the relationship between Britain and Israel is very important and that the dialogue between the countries must continue. Milliband also told Livni he was appalled by the warrant.

"It's not personal, it's about the entire State of Israel and our ability to go on working together against common threats," Livni told Milliband.

Speaking at a conference at Tel Aviv's Institute for Security Studies Aviv yesterday, Livni said that Operation Cast Lead was "right" and that it achieved its goals. "Jurisdiction or no jurisdiction, arrest warrants or no arrest warrants, I would today take the same decisions, each and every one," she said. Livni's fellow Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz called on the government to recall Prosor to Israel for consultations.

Previous incidents between Israel and Britain have included the issue of arrest warrants against Maj.-Gen. Doron Almog and Barak. Former Shin Bet security services head Avi Dichter and minister Moshe Yaalon cancelled visits to London after they were advised arrest warrants might be served against them.

The British government opposes Israeli settlement in the West Bank and recently issued a directive to British supermarkets to clearly mark produce from the settlement.

The United Kingdom also refused to support Israel against the Goldstone Report, and supported the Swedish initiative to have the European Union declare East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

By Barak Ravid

Source >
  Haaretz | dec 15

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