Arrest Fears Prompt Israel to Relocate Strategic Forum With U.K.

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague says Britain will soon change a law that has threatened Israeli officials with arrest for war crimes if they visit Britain.

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Israel said an annual strategic forum of Israeli and British officials set to be held in London has been relocated to Israel due to continued fears that Israeli leaders could be arrested on war crimes charges.

The announcement came as British Foreign Secretary William Hague wrapped up a visit to the region.

William Hague meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu on Nov. 4, 2010.Credit: Mati Milstein

An Israeli official said the annual Israeli-British Strategic Dialogue is being relocated to Israel this year. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Pro-Palestinian activists in Britain have sought the arrest of senior Israeli civilian and military figures under universal jurisdiction. The threats have forced some Israeli officials to cancel travel to Britain.

The most recent was Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who canceled a trip to London, this week, for fear he would be arrested for war crimes.

The row over the law, and Israel's fury that it has not been changed, has overshadowed Hague's visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories - his first since taking office in May.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was pleased by Britain's explicit commitment to change the law.

"Israel welcomes the British government's explicit commitment to amend the universal jurisdiction law," a statement released after Hague met Netanyahu in Tel Aviv said.

Hague, meeting Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Wednesday, said the British government "will soon be putting a proposal to change the law."

Israel had said it was postponing its strategic dialogue with Britain until the law was amended.

"It is a real problem when Israeli officials cannot travel to Britain, and so long as the problem exists, it will harm relations between the two countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on Wednesday.

The statement from Netanyahu's office Thursday said he and Hague had a "productive" meeting.

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