Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lawfare vs. Diplomacy

There's a loophole in the British legal system that allows Palestinians in the UK to have local courts order the arrest of Israeli politicians for imaginary violations of international law according to their very peculiar interpretation of it. The most recent case was of Tzipi Livni. The problem for the law-warriors is that Israel, being a sovereign state, plays on the field of sovereign states, or diplomacy in normal parlance. Diplomacy is a fine art of many delicate balances, and it doesn't like rude interferences.

This is to explain why it seems the British government is now scrambling to find a solution. If they don't, no Israeli politicians, statesmen of diplomats will visit London anymore, and the British will be cut out of the diplomatic scene of the Mideast - an unpleasant thought for British diplomats...

3 comments:

Victor said...

Why is it important for Britain to secure access to Israeli-Arab diplomacy? I noticed the same pattern recently with Brazil. Has Israel become some sort of gateway for diplomatic engagement in the region?

Anonymous said...

one minor but nevertheless important reason why the Brits do not want to be excluded is that they do not want to miss the chance of getting a Nobel Peace Price :-)
I also guess one turns into a nobody at polite get togethers in diplomatic circles, if one cannot plausibly claim to have tried one's hand at the "conflict" or to be able to have access to some insider knowledge - after all it's the one theme through which even the most obnoxious babblers manage to get media attention (in Germany)

But of course it could also be that they remember how a decent person or state should behave ...
rgds,
Silke

Charlie H. Ettinson said...

I actually blogged about this myself when I heard the news.

A slight correction though: what exists in the British legal system is not a loophole but ratehr the application of the legal concept of universal jurisdiction. It is actually a very well intentioned, noble idea that allows for the punishment of war criminals in places to which they have no connection when the jurisdiction of their origin cannot or will not prosecute them. As you note though,this has absurdly been turned on it's head, allowing Hamas supproters to point the finger at Israel.

The UK, like all countries, wants to maximize its global influence. Playing an important role in its former colonies in the middle east not only allows it to retain ties to its colonial past, but also allows it to compete with the US for influence as well as mainting a position of prestige and leadership within the EU.