Nearly 80,000 people have signed a petition at the UK Parliament’s website calling for the arrest of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes to London for a visit next month, The Electronic Intifada reported.
Briton Damian Moran posted the petition on a British government website earlier this month. “[The government] will just say “blah blah blah, universal jurisdiction, good luck”, he later told al-Jazeera.
If the petition attain 100,000 signatures it might be debated within the Home of Commons – however the Conservative MP Sir Eric Pickles has already dismissed it as “utterly absurd”.
“I welcome the Government’s unambiguous response which reiterates its support for Israel’s right to self-defence and condemnation of Hamas’s terrorist tactics”, the former Minister for Faith said.
“The bilateral relations between Britain and Israel are closer than ever”, the spokesperson said, stating that this was evident in trade figures that have doubled over the last few years, as well as fruitful academic, scientific and cultural cooperation between the two countries.
In a statement, the UK government said: “Under UK and worldwide law, visiting heads of foreign governments, such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have immunity from legal process, and can not be arrested or detained”.
The Israeli embassy in London called the petition a “meaningless publicity stunt“, not unlike the attempt to arrest then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni after Operation Cast Lead, a similar 22-day conflict in 2008-9.
“The connection between the Israeli and UK governments has by no means been nearer”, stated an embassy spokesman.
Official sources in Netanyahu’s office confirmed that Netanyahu is to visit the UK in September as he was invited by his counterpart David Cameron.
According to Amnesty worldwide, the Israeli forces “committed war crimes and human rights violations during a 50-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip (in July 2014) that killed over 1,500 civilians, including 539 children, wounded thousands more civilians, and caused massive civilian displacement and destruction of property and vital services”.
Almost 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children, lost their lives in Israel’s war.