UK petition to arrest Netanyahu attracts growing support

#Diplomacy

Tens of thousands sign their names to parliamentary petition calling for arrest of Israeli prime minister during visit to London next month

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on 2 August 2015 (AFP)
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Last update: 
Wednesday 12 August 2015 17:04 UTC
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An online petition that is calling for the British government to arrest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attracted more than 40,000 signatures in a few days with campaigners hoping public support for the proposal could force a debate on the subject in parliament.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron for talks in September when among other matters he is expected to issue his objections over the nuclear deal with Iran.

The petition, published on the British parliament’s website, has a very short text.

“Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold talks in London this September,” the statement reads. “Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the UK for the massacre of over 2,000 civilians in 2014.”

Israel launched a 51-day offensive on the Gaza Strip last summer, killing over 2,200 Palestinians. The majority of those killed were civilians, including 539 children.

Amnesty International published a report into the summer war, dubbed Operation Protective Edge by the Israelis, saying that based on testimonials, field research it found “strong evidence” of Israeli war crimes.

According to British law, any petition that has over 10,000 signatures must be met with a response from the government. If a petition has over 100,000 signatures, the topic at hand must be officially considered by parliament for debate.

As of 1300 GMT on 12 August, the petition had attracted more than 40,000 signatures.

The British foreign ministry dismissed the petition as “a PR exercise with no real meaning.”

“Bilateral ties between Britain and Israel are closer than ever before, as evidenced by data on mutual trade, doubled in recent years, and by cooperation in academic studies, culture and science between the two countries,” the ministry said.

“Any person can initiate a petition on the website of the British parliament,” it added.

Activists and pro-Palestinian British lawyers previously tried to arrest Israeli officials following the 2008-2009 winter war on Gaza by issuing arrest warrants. Former Israeli minister of justice Tzipi Livni evaded several attempts to arrest her while visiting the UK.

In 2011, under former prime minister Gordon Brown, a law was amended to make it difficult to obtain arrest warrants against Israeli figures visiting the UK in an official capacity.