Analysis: US backs Israel, but leaves door open for external Cast Lead probe

Analysis US backs Israe

The address last week by US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner to the UN Human Rights Council on the Goldstone Report must have been music to Israel's ears. Posner said almost exactly what Israel has been trying to say, without much success, ever since the report was published last month. Here are some of those statements: • We believe that the document is deeply flawed and disagree sharply with its methodology and many of its recommendations, including their extraordinarily broad scope. • In engaging in discussions over this report, we must step back and take issue with the grossly disproportionate attention the Council pays to one country, Israel. • In the past five years, the Council and its predecessor organization, the UN Commission on Human Rights, have commissioned more than 20 reports on Israel, far more than for any other country in the world. Since the Council was created in 2006, it has passed 20 resolutions on Israel, more than the number of resolutions for all 191 other UN members combined. This is unfair. • This cannot be understood to imply a moral equivalence between Israel, a democratic state with the right to selfdefense, and the terrorist group Hamas that responded to Israel's pull-out of Gaza by terrorizing civilians in southern Israel. • The report makes extraordinarily negative inferences about the intentions of Israeli military commanders, senior political leaders and the entire Israeli criminal justice system on the basis of a limited factual record and from those inferences draws condemnatory legal conclusions, treating accusations and inferences as fact. • These unbalanced recommendations (towards Israel as opposed to Hamas) taint many of the report's suggestions for international action. • National militaries engaged in asymmetrical warfare must remain bound by humanitarian law, but it is a stark and tragic reality that terrorists systematically ignore these laws. Actions by terrorist groups that have the effect of employing civilians as human shields put enormous pressures on militaries that are trying to protect civilians and their own soldiers, an issue faced by many militaries today. Although the Goldstone report deals briefly with these issues, its findings of fact and law are tentative and equivocating. If there is anything in this otherwise highly gratifying document that could be a cause for concern to the Israeli government, it is Posner's statement, "We encourage Israel to utilize appropriate domestic review procedures and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and address all credible allegations of misconduct or violations of international law." Posner did not elaborate on this point, although he expressed confidence in Israel's commitment to the rule of law and noted that the army is currently conducting 100 investigations related to Operation Cast Lead. Nevertheless, by his careful wording, Posner did not rule out the possibility that the US might insist that Israel do more than let the army investigate itself. Senior Israeli officials, including Foreign Ministry Deputy Legal Adviser Daniel Taub, have stressed that the army is conducting investigations regarding five key allegations against IDF behavior during the fighting. These reports are to be reviewed by the military advocate-general and the attorneygeneral. Either one of them is authorized to order investigations against soldiers or officials suspected of criminal acts. If neither does so, the door is open for human rights groups and private citizens to petition the High Court of Justice against the inaction of the military and civilian prosecutors. Just to be on the safe side, however, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon last week left open the possibility that the government might establish an external investigation committee of one sort or another, "depending on developments." One of those developments could be that the US decides Israel's government investigation mechanisms are insufficient.