ISRAEL claims political and military leaders are being "harassed" by anti-Israeli groups who are using the international legal system to seek arrest warrants for war crimes over the Gaza conflict.
The latest incident came yesterday after a court in London reportedly issued an arrest warrant against Israel's foreign minister during the Gaza war, Tzipi Livni, now opposition leader.
Ms Livni's office denied her planned trip to London was cancelled because of any legal threat, citing her inability to secure a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown because of his schedule. But it appears the court issued the warrant believing she would be in Britain for the trip.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Australian there had been a great deal of confusion whether the arrest warrant had been issued.
He said the Israeli embassy in London confirmed reports that one had been issued. The details of the warrant were unclear.
"What the law allows, the law allows. But if it allows for people to harass foreign leaders, then there is a problem, and they should be able to find a way to stop this."
The British Foreign Office issued a statement saying: "The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East and to be a strategic partner of Israel.
"To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government. We are looking urgently at the implications of this case."
British reports said it was the second time in months that lawyers had gone to a magistrates court in London after a warrant for the arrest of an Israeli politician.
The Guardian reported yesterday that in September the court was asked to issue a warrant for the arrest of Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, which gives courts in England and Wales universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases.
It said Mr Barak, attending a meeting at the British Labour Party conference in Brighton at the time, avoided arrest when the Foreign Office told the court he was a serving minister who would be meeting his British counterparts, which gave him immunity.
Ministers hoping for private visits to Britain now asked the Israeli embassy in London to arrange meetings with British officials to ensure legal protection. But the newspaper said Ms Livni, no longer a minister, could not enjoy such immunity nor could Ehud Olmert, then prime minister and now a private citizen.
Israeli media said the legal situation may deter Israeli politicians from travelling to Britain.
Ms Livni's office said she was "proud" of the decisions she made during the Gaza war and would "continue presenting her view everywhere around the world".