Israeli minister calls off British trip

By Liz Stephens

Israeli vice prime minister Moshe Ya’alon is alleged to have cancelled a planned visit to Britain over fears he could be arrested on war crimes charges.

Mr Ya’alon, a former military chief, was due to speak at a Jewish charity fundraiser. However he is believed to have cancelled the trip after receiving legal advice that he faced possible charges over his involvement in the assassination of a member of Hamas.

A spokesperson for Mr Ya’alon said the visit had been cancelled “to avoid playing into the hands of anti-Israel propaganda”.

Last week activists tried to have Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak arrested while he was in the UK attending the Labour party conference.

The attempt was unsuccessful as Westminster magistrates court concluded that as defence minister and deputy prime minister of Israel, Mr Barack had immunity from prosecution in the UK.

However, Israeli legal advisers believed that Ya’alon would not be subject to the same diplomatic immunity.

The Criminal Justice Act allows for the prosecution of war crimes suspects in the UK even if they are not British citizens and the crimes were committed outside the borders of the UK.

The Israeli government has expressed its anger following the attempt to have a warrant issued against Mr Barak two weeks ago.

Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, called it a “continuation of the process of demonisation and the de-legitimisation of Israel”.

The charges against Mr Ya’alon go back to 2002 when he is alleged to have been involved in the assassination of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh in Gaza City. The attack also killed 14 civilians, including nine children.

Mr Ya’alon was due to speak at the Jewish National Fund dinner next month to raise money for Benji’s Home, a residential home for soldiers.