Israeli foreign ministry officials have been training lawyers and jurists from around the world to confront legal claims against Israel, Israel Hayom has learned.
For years, pro-Palestinian individuals and organizations have tried to defeat Israel with lawsuits, boycotts and by adding a legal dimension to the political conflict. One of the main methods behind these efforts has been applications for arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials travelling abroad, under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Several senior defense officials and Israeli politicians have been targeted in recent years, especially in the UK. In December 2009, a London court issued an arrest warrant for former opposition leader and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, following an application by a lawyer acting on behalf of Palestinians who claimed they were victims of Operation Cast Lead.
Until now, Israel has dealt with the issue by working directly with foreign governments to try to close loopholes in the law allowing the issuing of arrest warrants under universal jurisdiction. This was the case, for example, in the U.K., where the British parliament eventually passed legislation last year requiring the director of public prosecutions to give his approval to any private requests for prosecution for war crimes initiated in British courts. The new legislation was aimed at preventing British courts from being used for political purposes.
Now, a new initiative by the Foreign Ministry is working to train lawyers around the world how to handle delegitimization claims brought before their local courts.
The Foreign Ministry has arranged organized briefings for lawyers considered friendly to Israel, in which it presents examples and background information on delegitimization attempts by Palestinians, and provides tools and recommendations to counteract such attempts.
Until recently, these training sessions and conferences have been held under the radar.
There have already been conferences with lawyers in New York and Sao Paulo, and this week two more conferences are expected to take place in London and Paris.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy on special issues, attorney Yitzhak Molho is set to attend the conference in London, while Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is scheduled to be at the session in Paris.