"We are all Tzipi Livni"

Reports of British arrest warrant for former Israeli minister could have serious implications

Britain's legal system has had a tough rap in recent weeks. As if the furore about draconian libel laws wasn't enough, a diplomatic storm appears to be brewing over reports that a British court issued an arrest warrant against the Israeli opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, for war crimes in Israel's offensive against Gaza last year.

The Guardian reported yesterday that Westminster Magistrates' Court issued the warrant at the request of lawyers acting on behalf of some Palestinian victims of the conflict. Livni, a former foreign minister, was in the war cabinet for "Operation Cast Lead", which ruined infrastructure in Gaza and killed between 1,100 and 1,400 Palestinians.

Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to Britain, told Israeli army radio that Britain should change the law allowing groups to pursue charges against non-citizens for crimes outside the UK:

The current situation has become intolerable; it is time that it changes. I am convinced that the British government will understand that it is time to react and not content itself with declarations.

But the warrant is thought to be part of an international effort to pursue alleged war crimes under universal jurisdiction. Bill Bowring, a professor of law at the University of London, told al-Jazeera English:

This has happened before. It's under quite old legislation, under the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Basically what it says is that if a person anywhere in the world commits grave breaches against civilians then that person should be arrested and prosecuted wherever they turn up in the world.

This move could have major implications. As a former minister, Livni is no longer protected by diplomatic immunity. The same is true of former prime minister Ehud Barak. Sources report that international travel is increasingly a matter of thought for Israeli public figures.

The Foreign Office, meanwhile, issued a slightly panicked-sounding statement:

The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East and to be a strategic partner of Israel. To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government. We are looking urgently at the implications of this case.

As the Israeli vice-premier Silvan Shalom said, reacting to the "scandalous" news: "Where Cast Lead is concerned, we are all Tzipi Livni."

The independence of the courts is supposedly sacrosanct, but this move could have significant diplomatic repercussions. As the high court faces a challenge from the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, it will be interesting to see whether the government allows this particular trend to continue.

 

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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