Call to arrest Israeli PM over false accusations for anti-Israel PR receives over 100,000 signatures, but the British foreign office dismissed the petition, calling it “a PR exercise with no real meaning.”
An online petition on the United Kingdom Parliament’s official website calling for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon his arrival in London over alleged war crimes has received more than 100,000 signatures, making the matter eligible for debate by lawmakers.
“Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold talks in London this September,” the petition reads. “Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the UK for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014.”
The petition, which relates to the bloody conflict between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas in the summer of 2014, further specifies that any petition that managed to rack up over 1,000 backers will elicit an official response from Westminster; one with more than 100,000 signatures “will be considered for debate in Parliament.”
Netanyahu was scheduled to visit London this coming week for talks with British counterpart David Cameron, and the two were expected to discuss regional issues, with an emphasis on the Iran nuclear deal.
The UK Government dismissed the petition against Netanyhau shortly after it was initially published online. It issued a statement clarifying that under UK and international law, “visiting heads of foreign governments, such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have immunity from legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained.”
“We recognise that the conflict in Gaza last year took a terrible toll,” the statement read. “As the Prime Minister said, we were all deeply saddened by the violence and the UK has been at the forefront of international reconstruction efforts. However the Prime Minister was clear on the UK’s recognition of Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself, within the boundaries of international humanitarian law.”
“We condemn the terrorist tactics of Hamas who fired rockets on Israel, built extensive tunnels to kidnap and murder, and repeatedly refused to accept ceasefires. Israel, like any state, has the right to ensure its own security, as its citizens also have the right to live without fear of attack,” the response continued.
“The UK is a close friend of Israel and we enjoy an excellent bilateral relationship, built on decades of cooperation between our two countries across a range of fields. Our priority for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the achievement of a two-state solution, based on 1967 borders. We continue to believe that negotiations will be necessary in order to achieve this, and that both parties need to focus on steps that are conducive to peace. The UK Government will reinforce this message to Mr Netanyahu during his visit.”
The British foreign office also dismissed the move, calling it “a PR exercise with no real meaning.”
“Bilateral ties between Britain and Israel are closer than ever before, as evidenced by data on mutual trade, doubled in recent years, and by cooperation in academic studies, culture and science between the two countries,” the foreign office declared in a statement.
“Any person can initiate a petition on the website of the British parliament.”
About 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza war, at least half of whom armed combatants according to Israeli figures. On the Israeli side 73 people were killed, of them 67 soldiers.
While British law does not actually permit the government to carry out the arrest, and the petition’s organizer said it was intended to highlight the level of disapproval for Netanyahu.
Anti-Israel activist Damian Moran told Al Jazeera that he doesn’t expect Netanyahu to get arrested because of the universal jurisdiction laws. “It is a clear message to him that there’s a massive amount of people who don’t want him here,” he said.
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