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Arrest risk minimized, Ayalon visits Britain

LONDON (JTA) — Israel’s deputy foreign minister is visiting Britain after receiving assurances from the British government that he is not at risk of arrest.

Daniel Ayalon spoke Monday night in Oxford, where pro-Palestinians made their voices heard inside and outside the hall.

The British government is still trying to find a solution to the threat of arrest of Israeli officials visiting the United Kingdom, after pro-Palestinian activists managed to convince a judge to issue an arrest warrant against the former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni last year on suspicion of war crimes during Israel’s military action in Gaza. The warrant was cancelled when it turned out that Livni was not in the UK.

The British government was able to give Ayalon assurances that he will not face a similar situation since, as a serving senior member of the Israeli government visiting on official invitation of his British counterpart, he enjoys immunity.

Ayalon spoke Monday at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and later at the prestigious Oxford University debating society, the Oxford Union.

Ayalon said repeatedly that Israel is ready to make compromises in order to achieve a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians, whom he blamed for refusing to come to the negotiating table.

Outside the hall a small, noisy group of demonstrators chanted anti-Israel slogans, including “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." Inside the hall some in the audience tried repeatedly to interrupt Ayalon’s speech; security physically removed some of the protesters.

On Tuesday, Ayalon was scheduled to hold meetings with leaders of the Jewish community and members of Parliament. In the afternoon he will meet the Foreign Office minister, Ivan Lewis.

Following the meeting, Ayalon and Lewis will host a reception to celebrate academic cooperation between Britain and Israel, which Britain sees as the answer to the calls for an academic boycott of Israeli educational institutions.
 

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