A decision will be made shortly on whether to establish anon-military committee to investigate the findings of the Goldstone Commissionreport on Operation Cast Lead, according to a government source quoted byIsrael Radio Saturday morning.
A select team, headed by Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, hasbeen discussing the decision in the last few days, the report added.
The team has received many recommendations backing the establishmentof such a panel as early as next week, the source noted, especially it mayreduce international pressure over the operation.
Such a commission, Israel Radioreported, would likely be headed by a senior judge or other top official.
On Friday, Israeli diplomatsstationed around the world said that world leaders welcomed an Israeli letterto UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon which detailing an IDF probe conducted inthe wake of the Goldstone report. The diplomats noted, however, that the worldmight insist on an independent investigation by outside the framework of themilitary, Israel Radio reported.
“'s answer [to the Goldstonereport] is good, but should be accompanied by an investigation conductedoutside of the security establishment,” the station quoted diplomats as saying.
Several months ago, FinanceMinister Yuval Steinitz proposed that such an investigation be undertaken bythe Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, since this body was mostknowledgeable about the issues at hand and would also know the publication ofwhich issues may or may not harm the security interests of the state.
Earlier on Friday, the Israeligovernment delivered a report detailing the IDF investigations into allegationsof misconduct during last winter’s operation, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.
“I think this report againillustrates that the IDF is a uniquely responsible and serious military, thatoperates in a moral and accurate manner even under impossible conditions,”Barak said.
“The Goldstone Report is adistorted, false and biased report,” he asserted.
The 40-page “letter” was deliveredto Ban, explaining the independence of ’s legal system, and theefficacy of the justice system in the military.
Diplomatic officials stressed that this letter is not theIDF’s answer to the Goldstone Commission report. The IDF rebuttal is currentlybeing completed, and 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 system of military justice compares with that in other democratic countriesand is independent, and that the IDF’s investigations are serious.The UN General Assembly endorsed the Goldstone Report in November, giving bothand Hamas until February 5 to open independent investigations into theiractions and report back to the secretary-general.Barak and IDF 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 beforeeither the cabinet or the security cabinet next week.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, during a visit to this week, said would not set up a special investigative panel to look into the IDF’s conduct.
The Palestinians submitted their own response, written by anindependent commission appointed several days ago by Palestinian AuthorityPresident Mahmoud Abbas. The preliminary report was submitted to theSecretary-General’s office on Friday, according to the Palestinian ambassador,Riyad Mansour.
Speaking to reporters in , Mansour dodged questionsconcerning whether the report acknowledged wrongdoing by the Palestinian sideduring the war. “There is no symmetry between the occupying power, , andtheir criminal actions… and any actions that may have been committed by thePalestinian side, those who live under occupation,” he said.He said the commission appointed by Abbas would conduct a“very independent and credible investigation” in the coming months. Asked howthe commission and its preliminary report could be credible if it does notinclude Hamas’ point of view, Mansour said: “Whatever we do internally asPalestinians, these are internal issues.” He added, “It is up to us to see howwe can deal with our investigations without allowing anyone to try to deepenour divisions.”Herb Keinon and E.B. Solomont contributed to this report