Turkel II could bring change
Official: report is a road map for addressing questions that until now were not truly defined by either Israeli or international law.
retired high court judge, Jacob Turkel, will head Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
This report is not likely to fall into the dustbin of history as many others
One reason is that overall, top current and former legal officials
in the government and the IDF are satisfied with the results of the Turkel II
report and recommendations.
The officials spoke under condition of
anonymity in order to speak more freely and due to the high level of sensitivity
of the issues.
The officials said that the key item was the overall
conclusion that Israel could investigate itself, and mostly did a solid
They said that this was a crucial message because of the “prominence
of the legal experts” involved in drafting Turkel II, including “top Israeli
experts as well as top international experts, such as a former top official from
the International Criminal Court,” and the fact that the commission reviewed
many “actual” controversial IDF cases, “not just theoretical issues.”
official added that the report is a road map for addressing questions that until
now were not truly defined by either Israeli or international law.
terms of the recommendations for changes, of which there are 19, he said that
“every system, even a good one, can get better. I praise the report’s ideas. It
is good for us to get even better.” He also noted that the report would likely
have a “positive impact on efforts to defend Israelis from prosecution in
At the very least a “byproduct” of the report will be
to “undermine the argument against our legal system, because it says our system
is valid,” concurring with a prior finding by the Spanish courts a couple of
Multiple officials noted that the report would also help
foreign countries’ militaries that have been closely following the proceedings,
as no country’s legal apparatus for investigating war crimes violations has ever
been so thoroughly investigated.
Regarding the recommendation that
implicitly criticized the IDF’s operational investigations, the official said
that the message was not that the IDF needed to “get rid of them,” but rather
that they are just “not the best” alternative for investigating war crimes
Another official said that “the military advocate-general
never said that the purpose of operation investigations was to decide” the issue
of opening a criminal investigation, and that their use as one source of
information for that decision was “not holy.”
Not all recommendations
were received with praise. On the report’s recommendation to set a fixed amount
of time, one official said that “setting a standard amount of time could be
problematic” because some cases may be “simple and easily decided,” while others
may be far “too complicated” to meet a generic standard.
official recognized that some cases “must be decided faster.”
official criticized the recommendation to set the military advocate-general’s
term for six years, saying that was “too long” and that “maybe 3-4 years” would
be more appropriate.
On the other hand, the official thought the report
was too timid regarding the military advocate general’s rank, where it merely
suggested having a set rank, stating that the military advocate general “must
have the rank of major-general” to obtain the proper respect of top IDF
Regarding the recommendation to establish a new advisory body
on war crimes allegations in the State Attorney’s Office, some officials voiced
skepticism, saying it might just create a new “layer of bureaucracy” and it was
“hard to see if this will help” as there are “already people who know
international law” in the office.
In terms of the recommendation to
transfer investigations of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to the State
Attorney’s Office, an official said that this process “was started long ago and
is almost finished,” adding that there has even already been an application
process for “the new person to head it.”
Based on the reactions, it is
likely that some, but not all, of the report’s recommendations for improvements
will be adopted.
Which of the recommendations will get adopted and which
will be blocked may involve intergovernmental debates and personal differences
between some of the major government and IDF players as much as it will policy
But the mostly positive reactions and a belief that
adopting the report’s recommendations is a lesser evil than facing cases before
the ICC signal that the report is likely to help generate some significant