'Israel should preempt war crime charges'

Former Foreign Ministry legal adviser: Israel should investigate claims first, to show world it is taking matter seriously.

gaza air strike 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
gaza air strike 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Even though allegations of war crimes in the Gaza Strip are being used by some to delegitimize Israel, it is incumbent on Israel to investigate the allegations to show the world it is taking the matter seriously, Alan Baker, formerly the Foreign Ministry's legal adviser, said Monday. Baker said Israel should investigate the most recent allegations by Physicians for Human Rights, including that Israel "impeded emergency medical evacuation of the sick and wounded" during the Gaza operation. He noted that in the course of the investigation it would likely emerge that ambulances were used to transport terrorists, and as such lost - according to international law - their privileged status. But the investigation itself is important because it shows that Israel is checking itself and taking the charges seriously, Baker said. "Israel is going to face considerable legal challenges, and all this is being used as part of a campaign to delegitimize Israel," said Baker, who returned late last year after serving as Israel's ambassador to Canada for four years. He retired last month from the Foreign Ministry following 30 years of service, after waiting in vain for some five months for a suitable position inside the ministry. "There is no doubt that Israel did not systematically go in and commit war crimes," Baker said. He said that in isolated incidents, things may have happened that caused innocent people to be killed, and that it was in Israel's interest to investigate itself, and prosecute where necessary. Baker said that Israel's legal system was widely respected abroad, and that its say on the matter would be respected overseas. He said, for instance, that the International Criminal Court in The Hague only gets involved in war-crimes cases if the feeling is that the country allegedly responsible was not looking into the matter on its own. If it appears that Israel is not investigating, other countries and international bodies may feel the need to get involved, he said.