Is­rael may set up of­fi­cial in­quiry into Cast Lead

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER JERUSALEM

THE IS­RAELI gov­ern­ment is con­sid­er­ing whether to set up an of­fi­cial com­mis­sion of en­quiry into Op­er­a­tion Cast Lead in the wake of the United Na­tions Gold­stone re­port.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion, pre­pared by Judge Richard Gold­stone for the United Na­tions Hu­man Rights Coun­cil and pre­sented two weeks ago, ac­cused the IDF of com­mit­ting war crimes dur­ing the Gaza op­er­a­tion in Jan­uary.

Is­rael’s orig­i­nal po­si­tion was that the in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions car­ried out by the IDF fol­low­ing the war were suf­fi­cient and that Is­rael did not need to re­spond to the “bi­ased” and “un­bal­anced” re­port with fur­ther en­quiries.

But the in­ter­na­tional re­ac­tion to the re­port and the fear that it may lead to crim­i­nal charges against Is­raeli of­fi­cers and min­is­ters, as Pales­tinian groups at­tempted this week in Lon­don, are caus­ing Is­raeli leaders to re­think.

Prime Min­is­ter Binyamin Ne­tanyahu con­vened his min­is­ters and se­nior ad­vis­ers on Wed­nes­day to dis­cuss the reper­cus­sions of the Gold­stone re­port. Though no fi­nal de­ci­sions were reached, they dis­cussed the op­tion of form­ing an of­fi­cial com­mis­sion of en­quiry, to be chaired, most likely, by a Supreme Court judge.

The In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court at the Hague can press charges against sus­pects only in cases which have not been fully in­ves­ti­gated by their own gov­ern­ments.

In re­cent days, a num­ber of in­flu­en­tial Is­raeli fig­ures have been ad­vo­cat­ing a com­mis­sion, in­clud­ing two lead­ing le­gal ex­perts, Pro­fes­sor Uriel Re­ich­man, Pres­i­dent of the Her­zliya In­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary Cen­tre, and Pro­fes­sor Am­non Ru­bin­stein, dean of the law school there and a for­mer min­is­ter.

Pro­fes­sor Re­ich­man said that “de­spite the Gold­stone Re­port be­ing un­fair and bor­der­ing on in­cite­ment, it cre­ated ques­tion marks over our op­er­a­tion in Gaza”. There­fore, “if Is­rael will not in­ves­ti­gate her­self, she will be forced to by in­ter­na­tional pres­sure when Is­raeli pub­lic fig­ures are put on trial abroad”.

The leader of the op­po­si­tion, Tzipi Livni, who was deputy prime min­is­ter dur­ing the Gaza op­er­a­tion, said on Wed­nes­day that “we should not have had to wait for Gold­stone be­fore de­cid­ing whether to launch an en­quiry”, though she stressed that “a com­mis­sion won’t stop a wave of charges against Is­raelis”.

De­fence Min­is­ter Ehud Barak de­nied me­dia re­ports that he had al­ready ap­proached for­mer Supreme Court Pres­i­dent Aharon Barak about the pos­si­bil­ity of his head­ing a com­mis­sion of en­quiry. He in­sisted that he had only asked Is­rael’s most re­spected le­gal fig­ure to help counter the ef­fects of the Gold­stone re­port and in­sisted that he “re­lies on the in­ves­ti­ga­tions car­ried out by the IDF and con­sis­tently op­poses ex­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions”.

Mr Ne­tanyahu said on Wed­nes­day that “if the Gold­stone re­port is re­ferred to the in­ter­na­tional court at The Hague, it will stop the peace process. The Is­raeli pub­lic will not be pre­pared to take any risks for peace if it is de­nied the right to de­fend it­self.”

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