On Thursday, Britain's general prosecutor blocked an attempt to serve opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni, now visiting London, with an arrest warrant. The attempt marks the first time use was made of an amendment to the British law on universal jurisdiction. Prior to the amendment private citizens could obtain arrest warrants for alleged war criminals and, on those grounds, sought the arrest of senior Israeli officials visiting Britain.
Sources in the office of General Prosecutor Ken Starmer said on Thursday that an unidentified individual had asked Starmer's office to approach a judge to issue an arrest warrant against Livni for alleged war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead in late 2008, during her term as foreign minister.
Livni cancelled a trip to Britain in 2009 when she learned she could be arrested there.
Starmer refused the request, following receipt of a letter from the British Foreign Office stating that Livni was in Britain at the invitation of the government.
Livni met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, on Thursday.
Her visit was planned by the British Foreign Office to show that after the change in the law there was no reason for senior Israeli officials to avoid visiting Britain.
Livni told Hague at the meeting that Britain had done the right thing morally and legally by changing the law.
"Great Britain and Israel are both countries that are fighting against terrorism, and as such, they have to differentiate between soldiers who are acting to defend themselves and ordinary citizens, and war criminals, such as terrorists, who harm out of malice," she said.
Livni added that she hoped her visit to London would "ensure that Israel Defense Forces soldiers and officers will be able to travel to the United Kingdom and strengthen ties between the two nations."
"Britain must prevent political elements from taking advantage of their justice system," Livni also said.
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