How the IDF stalled a Cast Lead inquiry
cabinet. A sizable number of ministers were at first in favour of a committee of inquiry, as were most of the legal advisers.
PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak also leaned towards a commission, but Ashkenazi set them right and they backed down. Both realised how the army’s spin doctors would make it look to the public. The most they could do was to appoint a limited committee to review the IDF’s investigations.
Senior army sources insist that they have nothing to hide and that the IDF’s internal investigations had been carried out impeccably.
“We have to break this vicious circle where every war and major operation is automatically followed by a commission of inquiry,” says an adviser to General Ashkenazi. “If not, no officer will be able to operate under fire, he will be thinking the whole time how to cover himself from the next commission and consulting his lawyers.”
The IDF was hauled before commissions of inquiries following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982 and the Second Lebanon War three years ago. But in those cases, the public felt let down by the IDF and demand to know what had happened rose from the streets.
Operation Cast Lead has been seen by most Israelis as a resounding success. Hamas was smashed, the rocket firing stopped and the casualties, 10 dead soldiers, relatively light. A recent poll showed that the IDF is the most popular part of the Israeli establishment, by a wide margin. A judicial probe could reverse that popularity.