Around 80,000 Britons signed a petition calling for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu when he arrives in London in September, local media reported yesterday.
British citizen Damian Moran launched the petition early this month and posted it on the government’s website.
“Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the UK for the massacre of over 2,000 civilians in 2014,” Moran said, referring to the 51-day Israeli war against the Gaza Strip last year.
When the number of signatories reaches 100,000, the petition could be discussed in parliament, but Moran expressed doubts that this would occur because of the government’s strong ties with Israel.
In response to the petition, the British government said: “Visiting heads of foreign governments, such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have immunity from legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained.”
“We recognise that the conflict in Gaza last year took a terrible toll,” it added. “As the Prime Minister David Cameron has said, we were all deeply saddened by the violence and the UK has been at the forefront of international reconstruction efforts.”
“However, the prime minister was clear on the UK’s recognition of Israeli right to take proportionate action to defend itself, within the boundaries of international humanitarian law.”
During Netanyahu’s visit to London, the UK government said, it would discuss with him the two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
AFP said pro-Palestinian British lawyers unsuccessfully tried to arrest former Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni following the 2008-2009 Gaza war.
The news agency also reported that the Israeli embassy in London called the petition a “meaningless publicity stunt”.