While the quality of internal IDF probes can bedebated, there is no question regarding the quantity of the investmentthe Israeli military has made in investigating last winter's OperationCast Lead. Hamas, on the other hand, while it has promised to conductits own internal investigation, has so far done nothing.
InApril, 2009, the IDF released the findings from five major probes intothe operation. While some found operational mishaps, no evidence wasfound to back up allegations of intentional attacks on innocentPalestinians.
The probes focused on complaints that troops intentionallytargeted civilians and civilian infrastructure, including UnitedNations facilities. Another investigation examined the IDF's use ofphosphorus munitions during the operation.
Since then, the IDF increased the span of its probes, and as oflast month was in the midst of 30 criminal investigations based ontestimonies of Palestinians who met with Military Police investigatorsat the Erez Crossing. Another 130 incidents were also under review bythe Military Advocate General's Office.
According to a senior IDF officer, many of theseprobes have been completed, and the military has yet to discoverevidence to support claims of intentional killing of civilians or masslooting.
In addition, the IDF has announced it will increase theparticipation of legal advisers in operation-planning forums and willlikely use additional means to warn civilians to flee their homesbefore attacking.
Hamashas conducted no investigation of any kind, and has given no indicationit intends to change its doctrine of using civilian infrastructure towage war.
As a result, no matter what changes are made by the IDF, in anyfuture conflict the outcome will likely not be much different than itwas in Gaza last winter. As long as Hamas continues to fire rocketsfrom schoolyards and store its weapons in mosques and people's homes,the IDF will have no choice but to venture into the built-up areaswhere the risk of collateral damage is statistically greater.
As reported in Monday's Jerusalem Post, both DefenseMinister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. GabiAshkenazi support the establishment of a judicial investigative panelto review internal IDF investigations of alleged wrongdoing. This wouldnot be an inquiry commission like after the Second Lebanon War in 2006,but would be led by world-renowned jurists who would review the probesand issue an opinion on their integrity, significance and relevance.
While such an offer might not fulfill Israel's part of UNSecretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for "credible domesticinvestigations," the thinking within Israel is that if the GoldstoneReport is brought before the General Assembly (GA), it may influencemany countries to vote against any initiative to sanction Israel.
For Israel, a GA vote on the Goldstone Report comes down to thequality of the countries and not the quantity. From an Israeliperspective, even if there is a majority in favor of sanctioningIsrael, if the US together with most of Europe, Asia and South Americavote against, even while Africa and Arab nations vote in favor, itwould view this as a sign of support due to the quality of itssupporters