Not content with merely dancing to Israel’s tune over their policies should they win the next General Election, as revealed by Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones to a conference on Israel’s security earlier this month, Britain’s Conservative Party have sent two members of the Shadow Cabinet to “assure” Tzipi Livni that she won’t need to worry about arrest warrants should she decide to visit the UK. A report in the Jewish Chronicle says that veteran Tory MP Kenneth Clarke and Shadow Attorney General Edward Garnier met the leader of the opposition in Israel and confirmed that there is Conservative support for a change in Britain’s law “from David Cameron and William Hague downwards”.
Why are the Tories so keen to smooth the ruffled feathers of a foreign politician? Journalist Martin Bright puts it succinctly: this visit is “part of a party charm offensive”. In other words, they are trawling for votes, and what better way to attract the Jewish community than to fly to Israel, tango with Tzipi, and assure her that when David Cameron is Prime Minister she will be more than welcome in Britain.
The shadow attorney general, however, appears to have only a slender grasp of legal matters. According to the Jewish Chronicle, Mr. Garnier said, “Our courts will not be used as the venue for street protest.” That’s right: a British magistrate, in seeking to uphold the law, issues a valid warrant for the arrest of someone for whom there is sufficient evidence for such a warrant, and the Shadow Attorney General thinks this is “street protest”. He just doesn’t get it.
What Mr. Garnier has done, with the support of his party leader and shadow foreign secretary by all accounts, is give the green light for politicians all over the world to commit the most serious crimes imaginable with impunity, although it is doubtful if this “get out of jail free card” planned for the Israelis will be applicable to politicians from, say, Sudan or Iran, or even Palestine.
Martin Bright reports that Jewish community groups will be lobbying Justice Secretary Jack Straw next week: the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and Labour Friends of Israel are all due to meet Mr. Straw on 23 February. They are expected to “demand” an unambiguous statement from him about the government’s plans to make changes to the law so that suspected criminals are free to travel to Britain. In the wake of the latest assassination of a Palestinian official, almost certainly carried out by Israel’s secret service Mossad using forged British passports, it will be interesting to see how the present government, or the next, try to justify changing Britain’s law at the behest of a government that has apparently shown such contempt for the sovereignty of this country.