After receiving a letter from the British Foreign Ministry promising that he wouldn’t be arrested for war crimes while in England, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon arrived in London on Monday.He is the first Israeli official to visit Britain since a British judge issued an edict declaring that Israeli officials would be subject to ‘universal jurisdiction’ laws requiring their arrests and trial for war crimes. The ruling included an arrest warrant for Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni.
Since its invasion of the Gaza Strip last year that resulted in 1400 Palestinians killed, 80% of whom were civilians, and 5 Israeli civilians killed, Israeli officials have faced increased scrutiny and criticism abroad. This increased after Israel refused to acknowledge or examine the contents of the United Nations Report examining the Gaza invasion for possible war crimes.
Ayalon spoke Monday at the Institute for Strategic Studies in London, warning of ‘dangerous rhetoric’ emanating from Israel’s neighbors. The event was billed as a public ‘brain-storming session’ with British officials, researchers and diplomats. One of the subjects discussed was the growing boycott and divestment movement aimed at Israel’s apartheid policies. Ayalon considers the boycott movement to be an ‘image problem’ for the state of Israel.
Ashley Perry, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Ministry, said, “This visit takes place against the backdrop of anti-Israeli sentiment among some sectors in Britain and represents an attempt to present the basic elements of current Israeli policy.”
In the British Foreign Ministry’s invitation to Ayalon, the Ministry invited Ayalon to host an event at the Ministry’s office to celebrate an academic exchange program that “sends a clear message of Government support for strengthened links and of opposition to boycotts.”