(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein testified on Sunday before the Turkel
Commission for examining the May 2010 Free Gaza flotilla incident.
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testimony, Weinstein presented the committee members with an overview of the
Israeli investigation process, stressing its compliance with international
“Already in the Declaration of Independence, Israel pledged its loyalty to the
principles of the United Nations treaties. Since that day to this, Israel acts
on all levels to respect the international law, even in the face of complex
security challenges and murderous terrorist attacks it has been coping with
throughout its existence, in a manner unparalleled in the world,” said
“Israel’s commitment to the laws of war is also expressed in
its commitment to conduct investigations regarding claims that it broke them.
The duty to investigate such claims is derived from the founding principles of
both the Israeli justice system and the International law,” said
“My position is that the investigation process practiced in
Israel regarding complaints raised over violation of the laws of war, is in
compliance with Israel’s commitments to the rules of international
Weinstein supported Military Advocate- General Avichai Mandelblit’s
testimony before the committee in August and his presentation before the
committee in December in which he outlined the legal and practical difficulties
inherent in conducting an investigation into complaints of war crimes by Israeli
soldiers and officers.
“Investigations into events that took place in the
heat of the battle present difficult challenges to military police
investigators. For example, the place of the event is often in hostile
territory, the battle itself harms evidence; there is difficulty in finding
local witnesses to testify and the chaos of battle often impairs or distorts
combatants’ memories,” said Weinstein.
Weinstein said that the time it
took for the IDF to investigate itself in the flotilla incident was similar to
the time it took other countries to investigate complaints of similar scope and
variety, but stressed that the investigatory processes should be further
He also stressed that even in cases where the military
advocate-general took charge of the investigation, the advocate-general worked
under the authority of the attorney-general himself, as head of the general
prosecution, whose decisions in turn are supervised by the High Court of
“As the person in charge of the legal counsel system, I plan to
continue making sure that the State of Israel and its defense forces can
continue to battle its enemies who aim to destroy the state, but that they do so
in accordance with the moral values that characterize the state and the
international laws that it is obligated to,” Weinstein said.
“I am aware
that this combination is no simple feat, but believe that it sums up our
existence as a Jewish and democratic country and as a law-abiding state, and
therefore we must safeguard it with all our might,” said
Weinstein was the first to testify before the commission in
its second session, after it published an interim report in January.
interim report for the most part exonerated Israel of wrongdoing, with committee
members agreeing that both the naval blockade and the closure of the overland
crossings after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip had been legal.
commission was established in accordance with a government decision handed down
on June 14, 2010.
The decision was made in response to worldwide demands
for an international investigation into the May 31 incident, in which nine
Turkish passengers were killed and dozens wounded, and nine Israeli soldiers
were also wounded.