JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli deputy prime minister canceled a planned trip to Britain out of fear that he would be arrested.
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon was scheduled to attend a fund-raising dinner by the British Jewish National Fund on behalf of Benji’s Home, for Israeli soldiers with no family in the country. But the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s legal department advised Ya’alon that pro-Palestinian groups could ask a British court to have him arrested and put on trial for war crimes, specifically the assassination of a senior Hamas terrorist in 2002, in which 14 civilians were killed.
Ya’alon served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces at the time of the assassination. He left the post in 2005.
The Israeli legal team warned that despite his being a government minister, he likely would not be given diplomatic immunity. A lawsuit could be filed under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, which gives courts in England and Wales universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases.
Ya’alon’s spokesman announced the cancellation of the trip on Monday.
The cancellation comes less than a week after a British attorney filed a lawsuit against Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on behalf of several Palestinian families who were victims of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, on suspicion of committing war crimes.
A London judge ruled that while Barak’s war crimes were well documented, he enjoyed diplomatic immunity on the trip, during which he met with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband to discuss the Middle East peace process, Gaza and Iran.