'IDF probe good, external one needed'

Israeli diplomats: World wants independent probe into Goldstone's charges.

Barak at war ceremony298 (photo credit: Channel 1)
Barak at war ceremony298
(photo credit: Channel 1)
Israeli diplomats stationed around the world said Friday that world leaders welcomed Israel's letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon detailing an IDF probe conducted in the wake of the Goldstone Commission report, but said the world might insist on an independent investigation by Israel outside the framework of the military, Israel Radio reported.
Israel's answer [to the Goldstone report] is good, but should be accompanied by an investigation conducted outside of the security establishment, the station quoted diplomats as saying.
In Jerusalem, officials were weighing the possibility to appoint an independent commission of inquiry as early as next week.
Such a commission, Israel Radio reported, would likely be headed by a senior judge or other top official.
Finance Minister yuval Steinitz proposed already several months ago that such an investigation be undertaken by the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, since this body was most knowledgeable about the issues at hand and would also know the publication of which issues may or may not harm the security interests of the state.
Earlier on Friday, the Israeligovernment delivered a report detailing the IDF investigationsinto allegations of misconductduring Operation Cast Lead last winter, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.
“I think thisreport again illustrates that the IDF is a uniquely responsible and seriousmilitary, that operates in a moral and accurate manner even under impossibleconditions,” Barak said on Friday afternoon.
“The GoldstoneReport is a distorted, false and biased report,” he assertd.
The 40-page “letter” was delivered to Ban,explaining the independence of Israel’slegal system, and the efficacy of the justice system in the military.
Diplomatic officials stressed that this letter is notthe IDF’s answer to the Goldstone Commission report. The IDF rebuttal iscurrently being completed, will number more than 1,000 pages and will answerpoint-by-point all the allegations in the Goldstone Report.
Rather, the letter handed over on Friday was meant to spell out for Ban how theIDF investigated allegations of misconduct during Cast Lead, pointing out that ’s systemof military justice compares with that in other democratic countries and isindependent, and that the IDF’s investigations are serious.
The UN General Assembly endorsed the Goldstone Report in November, giving both andHamas until February 5 to open independent investigations into their actionsand report back to the secretary-general.
Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi modified theirobjections this week to the establishment of any independent commission, comingaround to the idea of setting up a judicial investigative panel to reviewinternal IDF investigations and determine whether they were thorough enough andlived up to accepted legal standards.
While Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermanhave come out in favor of some kind of independent inquiry, Prime MinisterBinyamin Netanyahu has not made his position on the matter known. He isreportedly coming under intense political pressure from Barak not to agree toan independent committee of inquiry that could independently question officersand soldiers.
There is some speculation that the issue could come before either the cabinetor the security cabinet next week.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, during a visit to this week, said Israel would not set up a specialinvestigative panel to look into the IDF’s conduct.
The Palestinians submitted their own response, written by anindependent commission appointed several days ago by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.The preliminary report was submitted to the Secretary-General’s office onFriday, according to the Palestinian ambassador, Riyad Mansour.
Speaking to reporters in New York, Mansour dodged questionsconcerning whether the report acknowledged wrongdoing by the Palestinian sideduring the war. “There is no symmetry between the occupying power, Israel, andtheir criminal actions… and any actions that may have been committed by the Palestinianside, those who live under occupation,” he said.
He said the commission appointed by Abbas would conduct a “veryindependent and credible investigation” in the coming months. Asked how thecommission and its preliminary report could be credible if it does not includeHamas’ point of view, Mansour said: “Whatever we do internally as Palestinians,these are internal issues.” He added, “It is up to us to see how we can dealwith our investigations without allowing anyone to try to deepen our divisions.”