Petition to Arrest PM Nearing 80,000 Signatures

British government issues response to petition to arrest Netanyahu, notes visiting heads of state have immunity.

Ben Ariel ,

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Credit: Marc Israel Sellem

The number of signatures on an online petition calling for the arrest of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his visit to the UK in September has nearly doubled to reach almost 80,000, Haaretz reported Sunday.

The e-petition, uploaded to the UK Government’s official website earlier this month, calls for Netanyahu to be arrested under international law for "war crimes" during last summer's Israel-Gaza war. 

It has gained 36,000 signatures in the last 10 days, reaching about 77,350 signatures as of Sunday evening, according to Haaretz.

The petition, which appears on the website of the British Parliament, notes that Netanyahu is due to visit London in September and adds, “Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the U.K for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014”.

Any e-petition with 100,000 signatures must be considered for debate in the House of Commons. The British Government has issued a statement in response to the petition, since under British law, the government must respond to all petitions that get more than 10,000 signatures.

In its statement, noted Haaretz, the government said that under UK and international law, "visiting heads of foreign governments, such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have immunity from legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained.”

The statement goes on to emphasize Israel’s right to self-defense.

“The Prime Minister was clear on the UK’s recognition of Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself, within the boundaries of international humanitarian law.

“We condemn the terrorist tactics of Hamas who fired rockets on Israel, built extensive tunnels to kidnap and murder, and repeatedly refused to accept ceasefires.”

There were similar calls to arrest former-Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for “war crimes” when she visited London last year, citing her involvement in 2008’s Operation Cast Lead.

The UK Foreign Office eventually granted Livni “special mission status” - temporary diplomatic immunity - for the duration of her visit. 

Netanyahu holds automatic diplomatic immunity because he is the head of a foreign government, the newspaper reported.