Livni: We must join world in fight against terrorism

There is no precedent for the extent to which Hamas endangered civilians, says IDF advocate-general.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (photo credit: REUTERS)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Tuesday said Israel must be “partners with the whole world” to successfully fight terrorism and that it should continue to improve the operational and legal tools for dealing with asymmetric warfare used by terrorists like Hamas.
The country must avoid “provocations on the Israeli side” that “hurt our fight against terrorism and hurt our ability to work with others against terrorists,” Livni said at an Institute for National Security Studies conference.
“We are clear on how much terrorists take advantage” of using human shields and breaking international law in urban settings, she said.
Livni slammed the world for “hypocrisy” in its equating Israel, “which tries to avoid casualties” and “only kills civilians by mistake” with Hamas, which “tries to kill civilians on purpose.”
This equation “hurts the free world in the fight against international terrorism,” she said.
The justice minister described a “gap between our true values” and how much of the world perceives Israeli military actions. She explained that the country had not wanted to go to war this past summer, and that it just wanted quiet and had tried hard to avoid civilian casualties.
Despite the IDF’s efforts, Livni said, “there is a commission from the UN with a judge who has already decided the verdict against Israel because he has already decided what to do with the prime minister, because this international decision is political, not legal.
“There is no chance I will let this judge sit in judgment over us when he has decided the case beforehand without hearing our witnesses, testimony and justifications,” she said.
Next, she said she wouldn’t have objected to being judged if the judgment was based on “correct values.”
Despite the international difficulties, Israel cannot simply throw its hands up when parts of the world are hypocritical. Rather, she said, the question is “how do we deal with this?” Israel must approach a “hypocritical world” with a combination of security and statesmanship – peace negotiations – moves, she said.
Speaking at the same INSS conference, IDF Advocate-General Maj.- Gen. Danny Efroni said there was no precedent for the extent to which Hamas systematically endangered civilians directly and indirectly as human shields during Operation Protective Edge this summer.
Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 had a relatively extremely low civilian casualty toll, Efroni said, adding that he had warned in an article following the war that low casualties could not always be achieved because of Hamas’s tactics.
The IDF had to rework its tactics in real time due to Hamas tactics, even as Israel is at the forefront of Western nations in developing tools to comply with international law in urban environments, fighting against terrorists who intentionally endanger their own civilian populace, he said.
Efroni said that the army was internationally criticized – unfairly and for political reasons, in his opinion – for three aspects: the IDF’s striking of Hamas members’ private homes, the large cumulative number of civilian casualties, and the use of artillery in urban fighting.
Hamas members used their houses as command centers, in which they also gave orders regarding the firing of rockets at Israel, he said, adding that criticism of the IDF for hitting them would simply encourage Hamas to continue its illegal tactic.
Next, Efroni slammed the IDF’s critics for leaning hard on Israel, which at least tried to take precautions, as opposed to on Hamas, regarding the high civilian casualties.
There is no legal basis to judge the IDF as violating the laws of armed conflict simply on the volume of civilian deaths, he added.
Many Western armed forces have used artillery in urban settings and in some fighting situations. When there is no air power or infantry answer artillery is necessary, even if it is more of a last resort, he concluded.