After stepping down from his position as legal adviser to an IDF combat unit, Prof. Eyal Benvenisti is urging the Israeli army to request an external inquiry into suspicions of war crimes allegedly committed during Operation Cast Lead.
It would be impossible to conduct an objective inquiry into soldiers' combat from inside the IDF, he said at a Rabbis for Human Rights conference Wednesday.
"I arrived at the conclusion that it was against the IDF's own interest not to call for an external inquiry to be conducted," said Benvenisti, an expert in international law at Tel Aviv University. "It gives the impression that the IDF is trying to hide something when it has absolutely nothing to hide."
"In the past there was no real need to conduct independent inquiries," said Benvenisti, during a conference entitled 'Is that us?: Law, morals and religion in Operation Cast Lead,' organized by RHR at the Van Leer Institute. "But today we are waging a war for public opinion, and conducting a proper external investigation is part of the war effort."
He added that some international courts obligated all military forces to conduct external investigations. "I believe the IDF has nothing to hide and many of the accusations leveled at the IDF can be easily cleared up after a transparent, external inquiry is conducted. If we do not allow for such inquiries by truly objective investigators, we will end up having Europeans with an anti-Israel agenda conducting the inquiry."
However, Col. (res.) Daniel Reisner, head of the International Law department between 1995 and 2004, said that it was unrealistic to expect the IDF to allow a totally independent inquiry into Cast Lead. "There is no army in the world that permits such scrutiny, and military investigations are almost always classified.
"I do believe that some external investigators and experts can be integrated into IDF inquiries after passing security clearance. My opinion does not necessarily reflect the IDF though."
The IDF boycotted the conference in protest against RHR's call for people to sign a petition demanding an external inquiry.