Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post
February 12, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel believes that the report it gave UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month on the investigations it is conducting into Operation Cast Lead is sufficient, and there is no need to set up an independent inquiry committee, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

“Israel feels the report it gave was a serious, comprehensive, credible and complete answer to the UN secretary-general,” one senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“We believe that we conduct credible investigations and that we have procedures in place to investigate these types of matters that are as good as exist in any country in the world,” he said, adding that the IDF’s investigations were under the oversight of the attorney-general, and subject ultimately to Supreme Court review.

Two weeks ago, Israel delivered a 46-page report to Ban, entitled “Gaza Operation Investigations: An Update,” documenting steps it had taken to look into allegations of war crimes during the Gaza operation. It stressed that Israel’s military judicial system was independent and came under civilian review.

The report dismissed four of the 36 allegations of war crimes found in the Goldstone Commission report, but also revealed that disciplinary action had been taken against two top officers – a brigadier-general and a colonel – for permitting artillery fire near a UN compound in a neighborhood in Gaza City.

In the run-up to the delivery of that document, there was a public discussion in Israel about whether it would include an announcement of a decision to set up some kind of independent judicial panel to look into the various allegations found in the Goldstone Report.

No such recommendation was made in the report, and the issue has since lost momentum amid a sense that Israel’s response may be sufficient to deter any future UN action.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and recently retired attorney-general Menahem Mazuz were reportedly in favor of some kind of an inquiry committee, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi were adamantly opposed to any committee that would be empowered to question officers or soldiers.

Barak and Ashkenazi did, however, come over to the idea of a judicial review panel, headed by a respected jurist, that would review the IDF’s internal investigations and determine whether they met international standards.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu never publicly articulated a position on the matter, and was reportedly keen on avoiding a confrontation on the subject with Barak.

The UN General Assembly, which endorsed the Goldstone Commission report, does not have the authority to kick the issue over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and it is unlikely that it will be sent to the Security Council – which does have such authority – because of the likelihood that the US would cast a veto.

The problem, therefore, said Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, lies not necessarily with the UN or a threat to send the issue to the ICC, but with individual states – such as Britain or Spain – that could potentially initiate proceedings against Israeli officials and officers on the basis of what was written in the Goldstone Report.

Baker said that without the establishment of a commission, “we will have a non-ending series of issues with countries like Britain.”

In December, the British issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Tzipi Livni – who was scheduled to speak at a Jewish charity event in London – over her involvement in Operation Cast Lead. She canceled her trip.

Despite promises by the British leadership at the time to amend the law that made the issuance of the warrant possible, nothing tangible has yet moved on the matter.

Baker said that while Israel may have dodged the bullet at the UN, the issue would not likely disappear unless some type of commission – an official commission of inquiry or a committee set up by the government – looked at the policy-making process to dispel charges in the Goldstone Report that Israel deliberately targeted civilians.


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