Israel is seriously considering restricting travel to Europe by its senior officials and military officers, fearing they might be arrested in the wake of a disputed U.N. report that accuses the Jewish state of targeting civilians in its Gaza war earlier this year.
Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces, told The Washington Times on Monday, “Currently there is no specific advisory and different senior officers are continuing their travel as planned. However, we are in touch and we are discussing with the foreign ministry and other legal authorities whether we need to take additional steps like potential restrictions of travel.”
Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, a retired Israeli general who now serves as minister for strategic affairs, canceled a trip to London out of concern that he might face an arrest warrant, said Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday harshly criticized the U.N. report, written by a team headed by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, “as distorted” and vowed not to permit the Israeli officials who launched the Gaza war “to arrive at the International Court in The Hague.” The U.N. Security Council will discuss the report on Wednesday.
Israel launched the offensive to stop the militant Palestinian group Hamas from firing rockets on Israeli cities from Gaza, which Hamas controls. While the war is viewed in Israel as a tactical success, its large civilian death toll - estimated at 926 by Palestinian rights groups and at least 295 by Israel - has created significant diplomatic fallout.
Not only do Israeli leaders and senior military officers face potential legal problems in Europe, but Israel’s long-held goal of normalizing relations with Arab and Muslim states has been set back.
On Sunday, Turkey - a rare Muslim country with close military ties with Israel - canceled an annual air force drill that would have included Israel.
Qatar, a Gulf state that kept an unofficial embassy, known as an interest section, in Israel long after most Arab states closed theirs, shuttered it in January, citing the Gaza war.
In March, the queen or sheikha of Qatar, Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned, hired a U.S. public relations firm, Fenton Communications. According to the contract filed with the Justice Department, Fenton will support an “international public opinion awareness campaign that advocates for the accountability for those who participated in attacks on schools in Gaza.”
The Gaza war also has hurt ties with Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel.
Nabil Fahmy, a former Egyptian ambassador to the United States, said, “Middle Easterners are fed up with Israel’s excessive use of force, most recently in Lebanon and Gaza. This anger has now extended beyond the region to the international community because the Israeli practices are recurrent in flagrant violation of the rules of war and basic human rights.”
While the Goldstone report accuses both Israel and Hamas of suspected war crimes, Israeli officials see themselves as the biggest targets and charge that Mr. Goldstone’s findings effectively deprive the Jewish state of the right to self-defense.
One of the report’s recommendations is that countries that have signed the Geneva Conventions “start criminal investigations in national courts, using universal jurisdiction, where there is sufficient evidence of the commission of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Where so warranted following investigation, alleged perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with internationally recognized standards of justice.”
This concept was tested last month when 16 Palestinians in Britain asked a London court to issue an arrest warrant for Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister who also served in that position during the Gaza war in December and January. Deputy District Judge Daphne Wickham ruled that Mr. Barak had diplomatic immunity.
Nevertheless, Mr. Ya’alon last month “decided not to go to Britain because he learned that there was an attempt in the United Kingdom to try to press charges against him for war crimes following the attempt with Defense Minister Ehud Barak a week earlier,” Mr. Peled said.View Entire Story
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