A decision will be made shortly on whether to establish a
non-military committee to investigate the findings of the Goldstone Commission
report on Operation Cast Lead, according to a government source quoted by
Israel Radio Saturday morning.
A select team, headed by Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, has
been discussing the decision in the last few days, the report added.
The team has received many recommendations backing the establishment
of such a panel as early as next week, the source noted, especially it may
reduce international pressure over the
Such a commission, Israel Radio
reported, would likely be headed by a senior judge or other top official.
On Friday, Israeli diplomats
stationed around the world said that world leaders welcomed an Israeli letter
to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon which detailing an IDF probe conducted in
the wake of the Goldstone report. The diplomats noted, however, that the world
might insist on an independent investigation by outside the framework of the
military, Israel Radio reported.
“'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.
Several months ago, Finance
Minister Yuval Steinitz proposed 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 last winter’s operation, 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,”
“The Goldstone Report is a
distorted, false and biased report,” he asserted.
The 40-page “letter” was delivered
to Ban, explaining the independence of ’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, and 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.
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 IDF 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
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
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 Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas. The preliminary report was submitted to the
Secretary-General’s office on Friday, according to the Palestinian ambassador,
Speaking to reporters in , Mansour dodged questions
concerning whether the report acknowledged wrongdoing by the Palestinian side
during the war. “There is no symmetry between the occupying power, , 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.”Herb Keinon and E.B. Solomont contributed to this report