The arrest warrant was issued on Saturday at Bow Street magistrates court, central London. It is believed to be the first warrant for war crimes of its kind issued in Britain against an Israeli national over conduct in the conflict with Palestinians.Luckily, the El Al crew allowed him to stay on the flight and return with them directly to Israel -- so he, as the Guardian put it, avoided "capture" (as if we were talking about some al Qaida terrorist on the run in Afghanistan).
Despite the alleged offences occurring in the Gaza Strip, war crimes law means Britain has a duty to arrest and prosecute alleged suspects if they arrive in Britain. The warrant alleges Mr Almog committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip in 2002 when he ordered the destruction of 59 homes near Rafah, which Palestinians say was in revenge for the death of Israeli soldiers. The warrant was issued by senior district judge Timothy Workman after an application by lawyers acting for Mr Almog's alleged Palestinian victims. According to legal sources, before granting the warrant Mr Workman decided his court had jurisdiction for the offences; that diplomatic immunity did not apply; and there was evidence to support a prima facie case for war crimes.
If Mr Almog had been arrested he would have been bailed on condition that he did not leave Britain. The attorney general would have to have sanctioned any prosecution against him for war crimes.
There was, at the height of the intifada, some worry about Israeli armymen and politicians not being able to step outside Israel for fear of this exact scenario. Although the intifada is supposedly over, the Palestinians have not given up their public relations effort (which this is part of) and their mission to make Israel appear a rogue and criminal state.
The thing is that two can play at this game. What we should be doing is making absolutely clear to the Palestinians that if they continue on this tack, next time Mohammed Dahlan, Saib Erekat etc. step foot on British soil, we too will approach the courts to get a warrant for their arrest. Unfortunately, we're too timid and will probably just have to get used to Israeli generals being unable to step foot in the UK.
(What was that we were saying about Jews and Israelis being excluded from European society?)