Israel Welcomes British Promise to Change Controversial Arrest Law

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's government said Thursday it appreciated a promise from visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague to amend a controversial law which has seen Israeli officials threatened with arrest while visiting London.

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

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague in Madrid, May 17, 2010.Credit: Reuters

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.

The law says that people can be prosecuted for crimes committed abroad. Pro-Palestinian organizations in Britain have used the law to to try get arrest warrants for war crimes issued against visiting Israeli officials, forcing several to cancel scheduled visits 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.

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

Israel 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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