PM: Legal team will combat Goldstone

Govt may establish team

October 25, 2009 21:46
3 minute read.

Instead of an inquiry committee questioning soldiers and officers about military conduct during Operation Cast Lead, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will put together a small team of legal experts and foreign ministry officials to reassemble and reevaluate material gathered by the the IDF in its partial investigation of the fighting against Hamas, Israel Radio reported on Monday. The team will only use existing material, such as previously unreleased drone footage of terrorists operating behind civilian lines in Gaza, and present the findings as an internal investigation refuting the allegations put forth Goldstone Commission's report. According to a statement released on Saturday by the Prime Minister's Office, the IDF has investigated most of the incidents and accusations of human rights abuses mentioned in the report. The newly formed team, possibly headed by Justice Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman, will ensure that the military investigation was thorough and serious and that no facts were "covered up." In related news, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on Sunday that Israel would work to fight the legitimacy of the report and change the laws of warfare to fit the new reality of terrorist combat. Barak's comments came after a meeting Netanyahu convened in his office to weigh the ramifications of the report, proposing that a team of experts be set up to combat it. In addition to Barak, senior officials from the Justice, Foreign and Defense ministries and the IDF were also present at the meeting, where it was decided to establish a committee to come up with effective ways to deal with the Goldstone Report. Sunday's meeting, according to government officials, dealt with a wide range of sensitive matters stemming from the report, such as the laws of war, diplomatic issues, international law and world public opinion. During Sunday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu made clear that IDF soldiers and officers would not be brought before an investigatory committee. He said that the investigatory mechanisms in place today were more than sufficient to deal with the situation. Barak - an adamant opponent of establishing an inquiry committee - issued a statement after the meeting saying, "We sent the fighters on their missions, and they deserve complete backing." In addition to fighting the legitimacy of the Goldstone Report, Barak said, Israel would also work toward changing the laws of war to make them compatible with warfare against terrorists operating from civilian population centers. Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi is also vehemently opposed to establishing an investigation committee. Nevertheless, a number of cabinet members - Government Services Minister Michael Eitan (Likud), Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor) - threw their weight behind the establishment of some kind of inquiry committee on Sunday. Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor (Likud) and National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) have also come out in favor of an internal Israeli investigation. Speaking before Sunday's cabinet meeting, Eitan said an Israeli investigation would be in the country's national interest. "It will serve our interests both domestically and externally," he said. "An internal Israeli investigation is much more preferable, and those blocking it are inviting an investigation by international institutions," he added. Eitan said that the government was giving full backing to the IDF, but that "accidents happen, and accidents have to be investigated. And in this particular instance I don't see anything wrong with Israeli officials doing the work." Netanyahu created a storm over the weekend when excerpts of an interview with The Washington Post gave the impression that he favored such an investigation. The full transcript of the interview, however, painted a somewhat different picture. When asked, "So you're not in favor of an independent inquiry, Dan Meridor favors one?" the prime minister replied, "It depends what he means by that. We're looking into that [the allegations] not because of the Goldstone Report but because of our own internal needs." Herzog said on Sunday that that since the Goldstone document accused Israel of intentional destruction, Israel needed to respond and show that there was no basis for that allegations, and Braverman said an investigation should be set up to minimize the diplomatic impact of the report. The most original idea came from Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), who reportedly told the cabinet that rather than setting up an investigation committee, Israel should release the protocols of the cabinet meetings held during the Gaza offensive last winter, which would show the degree of care Israel took during the fighting.

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