Analysis: Foreign Ministry to UNHRC - Bring it on; but is Israel really ready?

Foreign Ministry’s robust report on the 2014 Gaza war was meant to strike hard and deep at the United Nations Human Rights Council report.

June 15, 2015 01:34
3 minute read.

Overview of the UN Human Rights Council during a debate at the United Nations in Geneva. (photo credit: REUTERS)

–The stage is set, the main actors have taken their positions and in a day or a matter of days, the main event will begin.

The Foreign Ministry’s robust report on the 2014 Gaza war was meant to strike hard and deep at the United Nations Human Rights Council report expected to be published with highly negative conclusions about the IDF’s conduct during the war and alleged war crimes.

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The legal shots across the bow were the culmination of a campaign that included hosting a large conference of countries’ heads of legal divisions in February, tours of top law schools in the US and Europe by Israeli officials, and multiple rounds of pro-Israel reports on the IDF’s conduct by countries’ heads of legal divisions and top military law academics.

There are also the four IDF published reports, the latest from last Thursday, on the status of 190 reviews of incidents from the 2014 war, along with 22 full criminal investigations, three indictments and vivid detail on controversial cases that have been closed.

The new report not only explains the context of the war from the Israeli perspective but goes into painstaking detail in disputing Palestinian statistics on civilian casualties.

It describes in detail IDF munitions and tactics meant to reduce casualties; translates portions of a Hamas manual that calls for endangering its own civilians; and explains all the changes to the IDF’s investigations processes post the 2008-2009 Gaza war as a result of the 2013 quasi-governmental Turkel Commission review of those processes.

The most positive change is the speed with which the IDF opened its initial criminal investigations, some within weeks of the end of last year’s war.

The legal message from Israel to the UNHRC could not be clearer: Bring it on.

But is Israel truly ready? The report says that Israel has implemented many of Turkel’s 18 recommendations for improving investigations.

An exhaustive review of the recommendations by The Jerusalem Post revealed that only six of 18 recommendations have been fully implemented, though there has been progress on another five recommendations and some of those rejected are considered minor.

Most critically, as first reported in the Post, cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit has said that the government rejected recommendation No. 10, which was to set a time limit by when prosecutors need to decide whether to issue an indictment or close an alleged war crimes case.

This will raise red flags at the UNHRC and elsewhere.

The Foreign Ministry’s report and IDF reports describe in vivid detail why the IDF has closed the files on certain tragic incidents.

But almost 10 months after the war, there is still not a single war crimes indictment.

(There are three indictments for theft.) The investigations of many of the most severe incidents – the Hannibal Protocol incident, Shejaia incidents, an attack on a coffee shop and several attacks on UN facilities – are still up in the air, though the Post was told that the state had heavily weighed publicizing decisions on the Hannibal Protocol incident before the UNHRC report is released.

The IDF’s decision – justified or unjustified – to close the file on the Gaza Beach incident, in which four Palestinian minors were killed, without indictment did not win Israel any fans.

The truth is that Israel has done a phenomenal job building alliances with like-minded influential militaries and academics and has improved in its own investigations, but has still left itself vulnerable in that area.

Whether the UNHRC and – even more important and just around the corner – the International Criminal Court think Israel has reasonably investigated itself will likely determine the course of this crucial battle over the IDF’s legitimacy.

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