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British Court Refuses to Indict Visiting Israeli Defense Minister

An attempt by an attorney representing Palestinian interests to have Israel’s defense minister arrested while on a visit to the U.K. was thwarted when the court rejected the petition, citing diplomatic immunity. Earlier, Defense Minister Ehud Barak had reportedly been counseled to leave Britain lest a warrant be issued, but the minister refused to do so, insisting that he would show up for his scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The attorneys behind the action vowed to be “relentless” and promised similar actions against any Israeli officials visiting the U.K. who can be tied in any way to Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip last January. The attempt to bring legal action against Barak follows the issuance of a report by the United Nations Human Rights Council that accuses Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes in the course of that operation. Israel rejects the entire investigation as being biased against the Jewish state. The lawyers who brought the petition against Barak were encouraged by the fact the court’s rejection was based on diplomatic immunity, and believe they will be successful in future actions against visiting Israelis without diplomatic cover. The specter of such lawsuits hanging over the heads of Israelis is setting the stage for a major diplomatic confrontation between Israel and Britain. The Palestinians, meanwhile, are pressing for the Goldstone Report to become the subject of the entire U.N. General Assembly, resulting in resolutions against Israel, which unlike those in the Security Council, are veto-proof. In Geneva, where the Human Rights Council held a one-day debate on the report, the American representative called on Israel “to utilize appropriate domestic review and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and follow up on credible allegations.”