'IDF probe good, external one needed'

Israeli diplomats: World wants independent probe into Goldstone's charges.

By JPOST.COM STAFF. HERB KEINON, E.B. SOLO
January 29, 2010 15:30
3 minute read.
'IDF probe good, external one needed'

Barak at war ceremony298. (photo credit: Channel 1)

Israeli diplomats stationed around the world said Friday that world leaders welcomed Israel's letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon detailing an IDF probe conducted in the wake of the Goldstone Commission report, but said the world might insist on an independent investigation by Israel outside the framework of the military, Israel Radio reported.

Israel's answer [to the Goldstone report] is good, but should be accompanied by an investigation conducted outside of the security establishment, the station quoted diplomats as saying.

In Jerusalem, officials were weighing the possibility to appoint an independent commission of inquiry as early as next week.

Such a commission, Israel Radio reported, would likely be headed by a senior judge or other top official.

Finance Minister yuval Steinitz proposed already several months ago that such an investigation be undertaken by the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, since this body was most knowledgeable about the issues at hand and would also know the publication of which issues may or may not harm the security interests of the state.

Earlier on Friday, the Israeli government delivered a report detailing the IDF investigations into allegations of misconduct during Operation Cast Lead last winter, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.

“I think this report again illustrates that the IDF is a uniquely responsible and serious military, that operates in a moral and accurate manner even under impossible conditions,” Barak said on Friday afternoon.

“The Goldstone Report is a distorted, false and biased report,” he assertd.

The 40-page “letter” was delivered to Ban, explaining the independence of Israel’s legal system, and the efficacy of the justice system in the military.

Diplomatic officials stressed that this letter is not the IDF’s answer to the Goldstone Commission report. The IDF rebuttal is currently being completed, will number more than 1,000 pages and will answer point-by-point all the allegations in the Goldstone Report.

Rather, the letter handed over on Friday was meant to spell out for Ban how the IDF investigated allegations of misconduct during Cast Lead, pointing out that ’s system of military justice compares with that in other democratic countries and is independent, and that the IDF’s investigations are serious.

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The UN General Assembly endorsed the Goldstone Report in November, giving both and Hamas until February 5 to open independent investigations into their actions and report back to the secretary-general.

Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi modified their objections this week to the establishment of any independent commission, coming around to the idea of setting up a judicial investigative panel to review internal IDF investigations and determine whether they were thorough enough and lived up to accepted legal standards.

While Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have come out in favor of some kind of independent inquiry, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has not made his position on the matter known. He is reportedly coming under intense political pressure from Barak not to agree to an independent committee of inquiry that could independently question officers and soldiers.

There is some speculation that the issue could come before either the cabinet or the security cabinet next week.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, during a visit to this week, said Israel would not set up a special investigative panel to look into the IDF’s conduct.

The Palestinians submitted their own response, written by an independent commission appointed several days ago by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The preliminary report was submitted to the Secretary-General’s office on Friday, according to the Palestinian ambassador, Riyad Mansour.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Mansour dodged questions concerning whether the report acknowledged wrongdoing by the Palestinian side during the war. “There is no symmetry between the occupying power, Israel, and their criminal actions… and any actions that may have been committed by the Palestinian side, those who live under occupation,” he said.

He said the commission appointed by Abbas would conduct a “very independent and credible investigation” in the coming months. Asked how the commission and its preliminary report could be credible if it does not include Hamas’ point of view, Mansour said: “Whatever we do internally as Palestinians, these are internal issues.” He added, “It is up to us to see how we can deal with our investigations without allowing anyone to try to deepen our divisions.”


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