(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of
General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi are pushing for the establishment
of a judicial investigative panel to review internal IDF investigations
of alleged wrongdoing during Operation Cast Lead last winter and to
determine whether those investigations were thorough, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
and Ashkenazi have expressed support for the establishment of such a
panel, which they would like to be headed by internationally respected
jurists such as former Supreme Court presidents Aharon Barak or Meir
Shamgar, on condition that the panel does not have the authority to
independently question soldiers or officers.
The idea of these panels is a compromise between those, like
Barak and Ashkenazi, who argue that the IDF can be counted on to
investigate itself effectively, and those who favor an independent
investigative body to look into alleged wrongdoing during the Gaza
operation, as demanded by Judge Richard Goldstone in his report on Cast
The hope is that the establishment of this panel would deflect
the war criminal charges against Israel found in the Goldstone
Commission Report and at the same time would fulfill Israel's part of
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon's call for "credible domestic
investigations" by both Israel and Hamas.
"The idea is not to establish a committee like the
Winograd Commission after the Second Lebanon War in 2006 but to have a
panel of jurists review the internal IDF probes and to give their
opinion on them," a senior defense official told the Post
Both Barak and Ashkenazi are unequivocally opposed to officers being interrogated by an inquiry commission.
"The political echelon gave the orders and the officers should not be held accountable," the official said.
Israel, meanwhile, is expected to present Ban with its written
rebuttal to the Goldstone Commission report by Thursday, so he will
have time to read it before February 5, when he must brief the General
Assembly on developments since the issuing of the Goldstone Report and
consider the next steps.
Ban will be presented with the document in an informal matter,
since Israel's official position is that it is not cooperating at all
with the Goldstone process. At the same time, the sources said,
Jerusalem wanted its position to be known to Ban before he addressed
the General Assembly.
Parallel with this process, another - far more
in-depth investigation - is being carried out by the IDF's Military
Advocate-General Maj.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit. While the report Ban
will see on Thursday deals in general with the central claims of the
Goldstone Report and attempts to refute many of them, the IDF report
takes the report on "word for word" and refutes in detail the claims,
while documenting the report's factual and interpretive errors.
This report, IDF sources said Sunday, would likely be completed within the next two weeks and will be released to the public.
The New York Times
on Sunday revealed some of the IDF's
detailed report, saying that Israel has photographic proof disputing
Goldstone's assertion that Israel intentionally targeted Gaza's sole
flour mill and that this "was carried out for the purpose of denying
sustenance to the civilian population."
According to what will appear in the IDF report, the mill was
accidentally hit by an errant artillery shell during a firefight with
Government sources said it was not clear when, or in what
forum, the IDF report would be released, although it was expected to be
made public within the next two months.
The Prime Minister's Office in late October announced the
establishment of a committee to consider various ways to deal with the
allegations in the Goldstone Report, even while reiterating that IDF
officers and soldiers would not be questioned.
The committee was made up of Mandelblit, Attorney-General
Menahem Mazuz, the Foreign Ministry's legal adviser Ehud Kenan; the
Defense Ministry's legal adviser Ahaz Ben- Ari; and Cabinet Secretary