© Jews sans frontieres
Former Israeli FM Tzipi Livni
Israel's former foreign minister Tzipi Livni has canceled a visit to Brussels scheduled for next week. The news comes as Belgian prosecutors confirm that Livni was due to be questioned in an ongoing investigation for war crimes.

Livni was expected in Brussels on 23 January for a conference at the European Parliament, but she has pulled out citing illness, according to the Belgian newspaper Le Soir. Livni was apparently not too ill to speak to the New York branch of the Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday.

Israeli officials, including Livni, have a history of cancelling foreign visits if they fear arrest.

Thierry Wertz, a Belgian prosecutor, told Le Soir that federal judicial authorities "planned to take advantage of Tzipi Livni's visit to try to move the investigation forward." According to Le Soir, Wertz's comments indicate that prosecutors planned to formally summon Livni for questioning.

Evading justice

Livni is the subject of a complaint by victims filed in Brussels in 2010 for war crimes during "Operation Cast Lead" - Israel's assault on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians.

Association Belgo-Palestinienne, a Palestine solidarity group, said in a press release that the complaints have been brought against several Israeli leaders in connection with the attack on Gaza. It notes that Livni was a full participant in decision making at the time of the assault.

Livni herself told Israeli media in January 2009: "Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded."

The Goldstone Report, the independent UN-commissioned inquiry into the assault, also quotes Livni stating: "Israel is not a country upon which you fire missiles and it does not respond. It is a country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild - and this is a good thing."

Israel claims that the assault on Gaza was a response to missiles fired by Palestinian armed groups, but the Israeli government's own chronology shows that an agreed ceasefire that had been effective for months only collapsed after Israel broke it by launching several deadly attacks on Gaza in early November 2008. It then carried out its major assault on Gaza that had been in the works for six months.

Association Belgo-Palestinienne says that under Belgian law, some of Livni's statements constitute war crimes in their own right. It called for her to be arrested on arrival. The Goldstone Report states that where a country does not investigate and prosecute war crimes on its own, "international justice mechanisms must be activated to prevent impunity."

Livni has evaded justice at least four times while traveling in Europe in recent years.

Last July, UK police summoned her for questioning over war crimes, but she escaped accountability on that occasion due to the complicity of the British government, which granted her special diplomatic immunity.

Discouraging dissent

The Brussels conference Livni was due to attend aimed to counter the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. It is sponsored by the Israel lobby group Europe Israel Public Affairs (EIPA) and the Israeli mission to the EU. Along with other Israeli officials, it is due to feature Ioan Mircea Pascu, the vice-president of the European Parliament. The event organizers appear to be actively discouraging attendance by anyone they fear may ask critical questions.

The Electronic Intifada's David Cronin noted on EIPA's Facebook page that he had received no response to his registration request. The group answered that "this event is for supporters of Israel and those who oppose the BDS movement as divisive and fundamentally anti-Semitic. As a contributor to The Electronic Intifada and a well known anti-Israel activist, we have no idea why our event would be of interest." EIPA suggested that Cronin attend an alternative "pro-BDS event" scheduled for the same time.