Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief ofGeneral Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi are pushing for the establishmentof a judicial investigative panel to review internal IDF investigationsof alleged wrongdoing during Operation Cast Lead last winter and todetermine whether those investigations were thorough, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Barakand Ashkenazi have expressed support for the establishment of such apanel, which they would like to be headed by internationally respectedjurists such as former Supreme Court presidents Aharon Barak or MeirShamgar, on condition that the panel does not have the authority toindependently question soldiers or officers.
The idea of these panels is a compromise between those, likeBarak and Ashkenazi, who argue that the IDF can be counted on toinvestigate itself effectively, and those who favor an independentinvestigative body to look into alleged wrongdoing during the Gazaoperation, as demanded by Judge Richard Goldstone in his report on CastLead.
The hope is that the establishment of this panel would deflectthe war criminal charges against Israel found in the GoldstoneCommission Report and at the same time would fulfill Israel's part ofUN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon's call for "credible domesticinvestigations" by both Israel and Hamas.
"The idea is not to establish a committee like theWinograd Commission after the Second Lebanon War in 2006 but to have apanel of jurists review the internal IDF probes and to give theiropinion on them," a senior defense official told the Post.
Both Barak and Ashkenazi are unequivocally opposed to officers being interrogated by an inquiry commission.
"The political echelon gave the orders and the officers should not be held accountable," the official said.
Israel, meanwhile, is expected to present Ban with its writtenrebuttal to the Goldstone Commission report by Thursday, so he willhave time to read it before February 5, when he must brief the GeneralAssembly on developments since the issuing of the Goldstone Report andconsider the next steps.
Ban will be presented with the document in an informal matter,since Israel's official position is that it is not cooperating at allwith the Goldstone process. At the same time, the sources said,Jerusalem wanted its position to be known to Ban before he addressedthe General Assembly.
Parallel with this process, another - far morein-depth investigation - is being carried out by the IDF's MilitaryAdvocate-General Maj.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit. While the report Banwill see on Thursday deals in general with the central claims of theGoldstone Report and attempts to refute many of them, the IDF reporttakes the report on "word for word" and refutes in detail the claims,while documenting the report's factual and interpretive errors.
This report, IDF sources said Sunday, would likely be completed within the next two weeks and will be released to the public.
The New York Times on Sunday revealed some of the IDF'sdetailed report, saying that Israel has photographic proof disputingGoldstone's assertion that Israel intentionally targeted Gaza's soleflour mill and that this "was carried out for the purpose of denyingsustenance to the civilian population."
According to what will appear in the IDF report, the mill wasaccidentally hit by an errant artillery shell during a firefight withHamas.
Government sources said it was not clear when, or in whatforum, the IDF report would be released, although it was expected to bemade public within the next two months.
The Prime Minister's Office in late October announced theestablishment of a committee to consider various ways to deal with theallegations in the Goldstone Report, even while reiterating that IDFofficers and soldiers would not be questioned.
The committee was made up of Mandelblit, Attorney-GeneralMenahem Mazuz, the Foreign Ministry's legal adviser Ehud Kenan; theDefense Ministry's legal adviser Ahaz Ben- Ari; and Cabinet SecretaryZvi Hauser.