One law for Israel and the US, and one law for everyone else.
The Attorney General could be given a veto over arrest warrants for foreign leaders in an attempt to placate Israeli ministers who fear war crimes prosecutions if they visit Britain.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal, who is in Jerusalem, discussed an amendment to British law that would give her office the power to review arrest warrants in private prosecutions against political figures, according to Foreign Ministry sources.
Israel warned that a failure to resolve the situation soon would have consequences for both countries.
Any further deterioration in diplomatic relations could damage Britain’s counter-terrorism effort which has drawn heavily on Israeli experience and expertise, notably in dealing with suicide bombers.
* Quirk of law leaves larger issues at play
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Lady Scotland’s trip coincided with the cancellation of a visit to Britain by an Israeli military delegation. The group abandoned its travel plans after the Israeli officers were told that their hosts, the British Army, could not guarantee they would not be arrested.
Last month Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, cancelled a trip to London after a court was persuaded by Palestinian activists to issue a warrant for her arrest in connection with the 2008 Israeli offensive in Gaza.
Previously, Defence Minister Ehud Barak has abandoned plans to visit the UK fearing arrest and in 2005 Doron Almog, a retired Israeli general, avoided arrest only by remaining on the plane that brought him to Heathrow.
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, apologised to Ms Livni last month and promised an urgent review of the law to prevent a repeat of the situation.
Westminster sources said that no final decision has been taken on how to solve the problem but giving the Attorney General a new power to review private warrants was the preferred option.
It would give the Attorney General the ability to block the arrest of Israeli politicians but would not block action against Nazi war criminals, Afghan warlords or fugitive leaders of genocidal campaigns.
Officials have told ministers that a change to the present legal situation will require parliamentary approval. That advice has delayed the change because the Government fears a backlash from its own backbenchers if it tries to push through an amendment which is seen to favour Israel.
Lady Scotland’s office said last night she had been invited to deliver a lecture in Israel before the row over Ms Livni’s visit and combined her visit with a holiday.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
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