Under diplomatic immunity laws, Netanyahu is protected from arrest on U.K. soil as a sitting prime minister. Still, the movement is drawing more attention to Israel’s war crimes.
LONDON — Thousands of U.K. residents have signed a petition demanding the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his war crimes against Gaza during last summer’s brutal offensive. Given the large scale of support and attention, the U.K. government may be forced to publicly respond in the near future.
The petition, filed on the U.K. parliament petition website, was apparently inspired by an upcoming visit to London for meetings with the government. “Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the U.K for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014,” wrote the petition’s author, Damian Moran.
Much like petitions filed on the White House website, the government is required to respond once a certain number of people have signed. For parliament petitions, the government must respond when the petition reaches 10,000 signatures. As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had achieved over 33,000 signatures and a note has been added to the petition’s page: “Waiting for 2 days for a government response.” If the petition garners 100,000 signatures, it will be “considered for debate in parliament.”
Last summer, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, a bloody war against Gaza that killed about 2,300 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians, including over 500 children. The attack also devastated Gaza’s infrastructure, and left about 500,000 people displaced or homeless. These war crimes and others, like Israel’s recent attack on the Freedom Flotilla, which sought to bring medical aid and solar panels to the Port of Gaza, have given rise to increased calls for Israel to be tried before the International Criminal Court.
Regardless of the outcome of the petition, Netanyahu cannot be arrested in the United Kingdom because diplomatic immunity laws prevent diplomats and sitting politicians from being prosecuted for crimes in foreign countries. However, according to a report from the Jerusalem Post published on Tuesday, some former Israeli officials have been at risk of arrest thanks to pro-Palestinian activists in the U.K.:
“Earlier this year, Israeli diplomats scrambled to secure immunity for former IDF chief and defense minister Shaul Mofaz just prior to his trip to London for a defense conference.
Israeli television reported that Mofaz was at risk of being detained on possible war crimes charges since Israeli authorities had tried and failed to secure diplomatic immunity for him on his trip.”
This tactic has become more difficult since a change in British law made four years ago:
“The law previously allowed private complaints of war crimes to be lodged against military personnel even if they were not British citizens and the alleged crimes were committed elsewhere. High profile targets in recent years have included former foreign minister Tzipi Livni and former defense minister Ehud Barak.”