Thursday, February 11, 2010

JPost exclusive/ Israel decides: No independent probe of Gaza war

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.