Could Netanyahu and Obama Be Arrested?

[tweetmeme] In December of last year, former Israeli FM Tzipi Livni cancelled a trip to England when she discovered that British courts had issued an arrest warrant for her.  The warrant – issued because of Livni’s role in the Israeli invasion of Gaza – would have seen Livni arrested upon landing in London.  Arrest warrants for Israeli diplomats are nothing new, though.  A warrant was almost issued for current DM Ehud Barak – the mastermind behind the Gaza war, but his position in the Israeli cabinet gave him diplomatic immunity.  In recent years, retired Israeli general Doron Almog, former military chief Moshe Ya’alon an ex-internal security chief Avi Dichter have had to cancel plans to visit England due to arrest warrants as well.  Until now these warrants seemed to be limited to Britain.

Now, in response to the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhoud – the senior Hamas official – in Dubai and the accusations that Israel and the Mossad were behind the killing, an arrest warrant might be made out for Israeli PM Netanyahu.  The National reports that if the Dubai police can definitively link the assassination to the Mossad, Netanyahu will be wanted in Dubai.  Says Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, “Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, will be the first to be wanted for justice as he would have been the one who signed the decision to kill [Mahmoud] al Mabhouh in Dubai. We will issue an arrest warrant against him.”

As of now, Netanyahu has not been officially accused as being behind the murder and no warrant has been issued.  If the Mossad is implicated and an arrest warrant is issued for the Israeli PM, an important precedent will be set.  The importance is two-fold.  Firstly, a second country will be holding Israel responsible for crimes, even if Mabhoud’s murder was not related to Cast Lead; and secondly, the warrant signals that heads of state are liable to be accused and arrested for overseas activities.  Last year, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first acting head of state to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) – an action that was important in dictating the indictment power of the ICC.  The ICC, however, lacks the ability to arrest.

A Netanyahu arrest warrant would obviously not be as internationally important as a warrant from the ICC, but he would be arrested upon entering the UAE.  If a warrant is issued for Netanyahu, one has to immediately wonder about the actions of the US and the assassination campaigns that President Obama and former President Bush have authorized in the Middle East, particularly in Pakistan.  Of course, Pakistan is a US ally, but international assassinations have been part of the American arsenal for years.  If Dubai issues a warrant for the PM’s arrest, what is to stop a similar warrant from being issued for Obama?  Although this is doubtful, the possibility questions the legality and morality of such international assassinations.

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