U.K. Arrest Warrant for Tzipi Livni Angers Israel

Israeli government official reacted angrily today over a British arrest warrant that prompted former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni to cancel an appearance in London.

A pro-Palestinian group filed a complaint against Livni who was foreign minister of Israel during the country's controversial military campaign against Palestinian militants in Gaza earlier this year.

Human rights campaigners and a U.N. report allege Israel was guilty of war crimes during the fighting. Hundreds of civilians were killed during the campaign. Israel has fiercely denied the accusation.

The arrest warrant was dropped when it became clear Livni was not in Britain. On Monday Israeli media reported that she had cancelled an appearance at a Jewish conference in London as a result of the warrant.

Israeli politicians condemned the incident.

"Israel rejects the cynical act taken in a British court at the initiative of extreme elements," Israel's foreign ministry said in a statement. It went on to urge the British government to "act against the exploitation of the British legal system against Israel."

In Tel Aviv today Livni, who is now leader of the opposition Kadima party, insisted, "Israel must do what is right for Israel, regardless of judgments, statements and warrants. It's the leadership's duty and I would repeat every decision."

This is not the first time Israeli leaders have been targeted with legal action in European courts.

In October Moshe Yaalon, a former head of Israel's military and now a cabinet minister, also cancelled a visit to Britain because legal action was being prepared against him for his role in the assassination of a senior Hamas leader in 2002. Fourteen other people were killed in the attack including women and children.

In 2005 Israeli general Doron Almog, former head of Israeli forces in Gaza, was warned not to get off a plane at London's Heathrow airport because a warrant had been issued over the bulldozing of Palestinian homes in Gaza.

On Tuesday the Israeli foreign ministry summoned Britain's ambassador in Tel Aviv to communicate its displeasure.

Israel Criticized Over Its Conduct in Gaza War

In London the British Foreign Office said it "was urgently looking into the implications of the case. The U.K. is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East, and to be a strategic partner for Israel. To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the U.K. for talks."

Ever since the fighting in Gaza, Israel has been facing intense international criticism.

Legal cases against its political and military leaders are being brought under the principle of universal justice. This allows courts to try war crimes cases even if the alleged crimes took place in an another country and the suspect is not a citizen.

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