U.K. Parliament Won't Debate Petition to Arrest Netanyahu for War Crimes

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves 10 Downing Street after a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London on September 10, 2015.Credit: AFP

The British parliament will not debate a petition that called for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite it receiving almost 112,000 signatures.

Netanyahu visited the U.K. last week to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss the situation in Syria and the Iran deal. He was met with noisy pro-Palestinian protests outside 10 Downing Street.

The e-petition was uploaded in August on the official government website by those angry at Israel’s actions during the war with Gaza last summer. It argued that Netanyahu should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the U.K. “for the massacre of over 2,000 civilians in 2014."

Under British parliamentary procedure, public petitions with over 100,000 signatures are usually debated by parliamentarians in the House of Commons.

In this case, the petition demanded the arrest of a visiting head of a foreign government, which is prohibited under both U.K. and international law. As a result, the committee of MPs responsible for handling public petitions concluded that no debate would be held despite the large number of signatories.

The petition was supported by Stop the War, a British pressure group whose national chair is newly-elected Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn is also a prominent member the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a fellow supporter of the petition. 

The PSC was also among the signatories of a letter published in The Guardian last week, calling on Cameron to not meet with Netanyahu. Several union leaders, MPs and public figures were also among the signatories. 

The British government responded to the petition last month, saying that Netanyahu has “immunity from legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained." The response also supported Israel’s “right to take proportionate action to defend itself," condemned the "terrorist tactics of Hamas" and recognized that “the conflict in Gaza last year took a terrible toll."

There were similar calls to arrest former Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for “war crimes” when she visited London last year, citing her involvement in 2008’s Operation Cast Lead.

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