Will a petition calling for Netanyahu's arrest be debated in UK parliament?

Hadeer Alaa , Tuesday 25 Aug 2015

The petition has enough signatures to be taken seriously

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)

An online petition demanding that the British authorities arrest Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for war crimes when he visits London in September has amassed more than 80,000 signatures.

The petition, created by British citizen Damian Moran earlier this month, was posted on the website “Petitions - UK Government and Parliament”.

It states: "Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold talks in London this September. Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the UK for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014." It refers to Israeli military attack in the Gaza Strip, which started on 8 July 2014.

The assault resulted in severe casualties according to preliminary assessments made by the United Nations:

The number of Palestinian fatalities was 2,131, of whom 1,473 have been identified as civilians, including 501 children.

Approximately 110,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) still remain in UNRWA emergency shelters and with host families.

The UN says 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving approximately 108,000 people homeless.

450,000 people are unable to access municipal water due to infrastructure damage and/or low pressure.

The assault ended with an Egypt-brokered ceasefire.

This petition gained momentum in the UK and British government was urged to respond after it had amassed 10,000 signatures.

The government responded on the same website, saying that under UK and international law visiting heads of government, such as Netanyahu, enjoy immunity "which includes inviolability and complete immunity from criminal jurisdiction".

It also added that it was saddened by the violent attacks on Gaza, and has made effort for its rehabilitation.

If the petition amasses 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

Damian Moran doubts the petition will be debated in parliament given the diplomatic ties between Britain and Israel.

"The UK is a close friend of Israel and we enjoy an excellent bilateral relationship, built on decades of cooperation between our two countries across a range of fields,” said the government statement.

Spokesperson of he British foreign office Georgia Paker told Egypt’s state-owned news agency MENA in a phone call that “the possibility of discussing the petition in the parliament will be considered”. However, she stressed on the immunity granted to heads of states.

The Israeli embassy in London described the petition as “meaningless”.

In 2009, a British court issued an arrest warrant against then foreign minister Tzipi Livni for war crimes committed in Gaza that year. The warrant was issued upon the request of British lawyers representing some Palestinian victims of the assault.

However, the warrant was dropped when Livni cancelled her visit to UK.

The fate of the petition and the UK government's reaction remains unclear.

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