Haaretz (Editorial)
January 22, 2009 - 1:00am

In the aftermath of the war, the questions arise. Now, as the last IDF soldiers leave the Gaza Strip and the plumes of smoke and dust dissipate over the ruins, the picture of the war starts becoming clearer.

The first wave of international journalists has already succeeded in entering Gaza through Rafah, despite the outrageous closure which Israel has imposed on coverage of the events. They are already reporting on the sights they are witnessing for the most important global media outlets. International aid organizations have also started investigating what transpired on the streets of Gaza.

The questions are plentiful and troubling: the mass killing of civilians, among them 300 children and 100 women; the shooting at medical crews; the use of illegal munitions against a civilian population, including white phosphorus shells; the prevention of the evacuation of wounded; bombing and shelling of schools, hospitals, supply convoys and a UN facility. These questions cannot remain unanswered. The suspicion that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza is liable to cause it great damage.

This is precisely the moment at which Israel needs to preempt the others and investigate itself. It is impossible to ignore what has already been reported, and one must not leave the task of investigating solely to foreign bodies, some of whom are hostile. Israel also needs to ask itself what was done in its name in Gaza. Were deeds that are never to be done, even in a time of war, perpetrated? Has the IDF crossed the line according to international law? Was there no other way apart from such widespread killing and destruction?

Israel does not need this probe solely because of image considerations. Its moral profile in its own eyes is invaluably important. Now, the time has come for a Winograd committee for this war: An independent legal official who will probe all accusations. Just as Israel investigates airplane crashes and instances of medical malpractice in hospitals, it must also probe its actions in Gaza.

Such an independent investigation launched by Israel will to some extent dull the damage of the initial conclusions and the verdict that has already been levied against Israel across wide swaths of international public opinion. It will also enable Israelis to know what it is we did in Gaza, what was permitted and what was unnecessary and even forbidden, from a trusted source on whom Israelis can rely.

We cannot wait until the world has its say, and perhaps takes legal steps of its own.


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