Israeli officials present spectrum of views on independent investigation of Gaza war

Israeli officials seem to be taking a range of views on the question of establishing an independent Israeli commission to look into last winter’s war on Gaza.

The IDF’s Operation Cast Lead (27 December to 18 January), was primarily justified as necessary to stop rocket, mortar, and missile fire from Gaza onto surrounding Israeli communities (the range was expanded during the war to up to 60 km). In some instances, Israeli officials said that it was necessary to end Hamas rule in Gaza.

Haaretz is reporting that “Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor thinks Israel should establish its own independent committee to investigate Israel Defense Forces activity in the Gaza Strip during last winter’s Operation Cast Lead. ‘I have faith in the army and it is my duty to protect it, its commanders and its soldiers – and the most effective tool for this is serious self-examination’, Meridor said in a recent interview with Haaretz. ‘A state that examines itself [protects itself from] harassment. Today, with the development of international law, one of the best means of defense is for a state to investigate itself … The commission of inquiry that I hope will be established must examine the Goldstone report’s claims, even if it is a biased report, and its mandate from the outset was to examine Israel’s crimes, and one of the committee’s members stated prior to the investigation that Israel commits war crimes’, said Meridor, who also serves as minister of intelligence and atomic energy. ‘But the threat is serious and a commission of inquiry should be established, also to examine the suitability of the rules of war to the new type of war that has been imposed on us’ … As for Meridor’s recent return to politics, he attributed the move to the Second Lebanon War. ‘I saw how a government of intelligent people, some of whom I know very well personally, weren’t asking the elementary questions when sending the nation to war’, he said. ‘Going to war is the hardest decision a government can make. You don’t go to war unless all other options have been exhausted. You don’t go to war because you’re right, but because you know where you want to get to’.”  This article is posted on Haaretz’s website, here.

Israeli officialdom, however, appears to be divided — though mainly over tactics.  Like Meridor, some senior Israeli officials are reportedly speaking out in favor of an independent Israeli investigation.  Some “mainstream” (as opposed to “left-wing”) Israeli experts in international law, and some Israeli legal figures agree.  However, as reported in recent days, the explanation given in some cases is that the independent investigations should be just to comply with the bottom-line recommendation contained in the UN Human Rights Council-mandated Goldstone report — namely, that Israel and Hamas must each establish internal investigations within six months, or be referred to the UN Security Council. Some say this is required for “better PR”.

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Netanyahu discusses establishing Israeli commission of inquiry on Gaza war

The Jerusalem Post reported that “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was expected to meet with his top ministers on Wednesday evening, for the second time in one day, to discuss establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate IDF actions during Operation Cast Lead”.

However, this is not being painted as a any kind of concession to those who have been calling on Israel to establish its own independent investigation.

The JPost stated that “The commission would aim to curb a recent wave of calls to prosecute Israeli leaders and top IDF officials for alleged war crimes, after the release of the Goldstone Report, Army Radio reported. According to Israel Radio, senior Israeli officials said that as the Goldstone report is full of lies and distortions, Israel should probe how Richard Goldstone and the other members of the commission reached their conclusions”.

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