In a first from a US president, Barack Obama has now lectured Israel how it must conduct an investigation into actions taken by the IDF to defend the Jewish state. In response to a question from CNN’s Larry King on June 3 about the blockade-busting endeavor by Turkish-backed extremists, Obama said: “We are calling for an effective investigation of everything that happened. I think the Israelis are going to agree to that – an investigation of international standards – because they recognize that this can’t be good for Israel’s long-term security.”
The statement marks a new low in the president’s moves on impairing US-Israel relations.
Israel is a fully-free democratic society with an unparalleled, independent and accessible judicial system fully governed by the rule of law. The idea that it needs to be told by the president how to conduct an investigation into military operations taken in self-defense is an extraordinary insult. How dare the president suggest that its standards are not good enough?
The Israeli Supreme Court makes generous use – far more than the US Supreme Court – of decisions of national courts of other states, regional human rights courts, as well as international human rights treaties. The independent judiciary, to the frequent consternation of many political actors, is far more involved in oversight of the government and the military than is the judiciary in the US, where the political questions doctrine and other barriers frequently preclude judicial oversight.
Furthermore, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made clear, defending the maritime blockade of Hamas-run Gaza and preventing the creation of an Iranian Mediterranean port are good for Israel’s long-term security. They are also good for American security, given that Israel is seeking to defeat the same rejectionist Islamic forces that threaten America and democracy more generally.
THE PRESIDENT’S attempt at gross interference in Israeli sovereignty started with his rush to judgment last Monday, when he permitted a unanimous UN Security Council presidential statement calling for “a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”
Predictably, within 24 hours that call was duly translated by the UN Human Rights Council into a call for an international investigation of what it had already condemned as “the outrageous attack by the Israeli forces.”
The HRC is now engaged, in other words, in an effort to mimic the libelous Goldstone Report.
Though the US finally voted against the HRC resolution (after first
suggesting it was open to a decision reproducing the Security Council
statement), by that point the damage done by the president leaping on
the Security Council bandwagon had been done. Moreover, since the Obama
administration decided to join the HRC and to pay for it, American
taxpayers will cover 22 percent of the $530,000 estimated costs of the
The president’s assault on the credibility of the Israeli democratic
system is coming from all sides of his administration. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton indicated on June 1 that international
participants might be necessary to bolster the legitimacy of an Israeli
probe. Israelis won’t do. In her words, the US wants “a prompt,
impartial, credible, and transparent investigation... We are open to
different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including
Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley made the insult even
more grotesque – the goal wasn’t a credible probe in objective terms,
it was credible in the eyes of the UN mob. On June 2 he said that
Israel must produce “an investigation that is broadly viewed as
credible by the international community.”
Just a week ago, the Obama administration made another move to
undermine Israel’s stature by way of international intervention. It
undertook in writing at the conclusion of the Nuclear Nonproliferation
conference to co-sponsor a 2012 international meeting having the goal
of removing Israel’s nuclear deterrence capacity without concomitant
security guarantees having been realized. This increasingly brazen
intimidation is not going to evaporate if Israel decides to subject
itself to any kind of international oversight of its military forces,
political decision-makers or judicial authorities.
Nor, of course, would anything satisfy UN players short of a UN team
which was handpicked to assure a predetermined outcome finding Israel
guilty on all counts. Israel should, therefore, strongly reject
President Obama’s latest endeavor to erode its sovereignty and
The writer is the director of the Touro Institute on Human
Rights and the Holocaust and a Senior Fellow at Hudson