Rejected! Parliament refuses to debate Netanyahu arrest petition

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu © Stefan Wermuth
Parliament has declined to debate a petition calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be arrested for alleged war crimes.

The online petition rapidly attracted more than the required 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a debate.

Some 112,000 people signed the petition calling for Netanyahu to be arrested during his Downing Street visit last Wednesday.

The government dismissed the petition, saying it is impossible to arrest Netanyahu in Britain.

Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle on Wednesday, a House of Commons’ Petitions Committee spokesperson said the petition called for action that is “not possible” under international or UK law, therefore no further action would be taken.

Under UK and international law, visiting heads of foreign governments, such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have immunity from legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained,” the government said on the petition website.

The spokesperson said if backbench MPs want to debate the war crimes allegation, they may be able to do so by applying to the Backbench Business Committee.

Just like other heads of foreign governments, Netanyahu has diplomatic immunity in Britain, meaning he is exempt from being arrested when visiting London.

Ahead of Netanyahu’s arrival last Wednesday, clashes broke out between pro- and anti-Israel activists in central London during a demonstration against his visit.

Some 2,000 people gathered outside Downing Street for the ‘war crimes are not welcome here’ protest organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

But a counter-demonstration of about 500 people rallied in support of the Israeli PM.

Hugh Lamming, PSC chair and organizer of the pro-Palestine camp, told RT the protest was in response to the government’s view on war crimes.

The UN produced a report, which the UK government agreed with, saying war crimes had taken place last summer which needed to be investigated. But the UK invites Netanyahu as if nothing’s wrong.

The UK supports war crimes because we trade arms, which will be used illegally. We cannot allow Israel to act with immunity.”

But heads of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), who organized the counter demonstration, condemned the rally.

JLC organizer Arieh Miller told RT: “The [pro-Palestine] demonstration is a demonstration of hatred.” He likened it to recent demonstrations against the Israeli football team in Cardiff, despite the team having “Jews, Muslims and Christians all playing alongside each other.”

In summer 2014, Israel launched a bloody war against Gaza that killed nearly 2,300 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians, 500 of them children.

The attack crippled Gaza’s infrastructure and left over 500,000 people homeless or displaced.

On November 6, US president Barack Obama will meet with Netanyahu at the White House after months of chilly relations to discuss the Iran nuclear deal that the Israeli government has condemned.