Keeping the peace? The El Al flight and the Israeli army officer
Heathrow airport, September 2005. An Israeli general accused of war crimes flies in. Waiting for him is a team of Met police officers. Would they dare to arrest him and risk provoking an international incident?
".....The Independent Police Complaints Commission has vindicated the police who conducted the operation. But that leaves two big questions unanswered – who tipped off the Israelis, and why did the Met seem to think they did not have the power to board an aircraft on British soil?
The legal position, which seemed to have the Met stumped, was actually straightforward, according to several legal experts who were asked their opinion yesterday. A foreign aircraft is not sovereign territory, and while it is on British soil it is subject to British laws. Even the threat of a shoot-out should not have prevented the police from enforcing the law, Kate Maynard, of the solicitors' firm, Hickman Rose insisted. "Who knows what might have happened?" she said. "It need not have been an armed stand off. They could have stopped the plane from taking off, and brought in negotiators from the Foreign Office. Can you allow people from other countries to put the police in a situation where they can't enforce British law?"
The Anti-Terrorist Branch had been reluctant all along to take any action against the general. They acted only under pressure from Hickman Rose, who represents Palestinian clients, including the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. The lawyers themselves are not Palestinian. Several are Jews, and of those, Daniel Machover is an Israeli citizen......."