‘Le­gal Iron Dome’ braces for likely ICC war-crimes probe

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By YONAH JEREMY BOB

“The le­gal es­tab­lish­ment is the le­gal Iron Dome of the IDF” against war crimes al­le­ga­tions in for­eign fo­rums, a Jus­tice Min­istry of­fi­cial said on Wed­nes­day.

The com­ments, made at an Knes­set sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing hosted by MK Tzipi Livni, came as there have been mul­ti­ple state­ments from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court pros­e­cu­tion hint­ing it may move on war crimes al­le­ga­tions against the IDF’s han­dling of the Gaza bor­der cri­sis, co­in­cid­ing with do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal at­tacks on the power and con­duct of Is­rael’s Supreme Court.

The IDF, ac­cord­ing to Ha­mas, has killed more than 100 Pales­tini­ans and wounded thou­sands dur­ing con­fronta­tions at the Gaza bor­der over the last six weeks.

The IDF has blamed Ha­mas for or­ga­niz­ing at­tacks and ri­ots, while the Pales­tini­ans and much of the world have said Is­rael has used “dis­pro­por­tion­ate force” to put down non­vi­o­lent protests.

Against this back­drop, Livni crit­i­cized those po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cials who have at­tacked the Supreme Court and the le­gal es­tab­lish­ment, say­ing that state­ments from Jus­tice Min­istry and IDF le­gal of­fi­cials showed that re­duc­ing their in­de­pen­dence would un­der­mine Is­rael’s fight in the in­ter­na­tional le­gal arena.

Mar­lene Mazel, the top in­ter­na­tional af­fairs of­fi­cial at the Jus­tice Min­istry, said Is­rael’s le­gal es­tab­lish­ment is “the cen­tral point of strength in de­fend­ing our sol­diers and com­man­ders and is the rea­son that Is­rael has suc­ceeded in in­ter­cept­ing le­gal complaints against IDF sol­diers be­fore the ICC in The Hague.”

Another min­istry of­fi­cial, Gi­lad Noam, said that as long as Is­raeli prose­cu­tors and courts are in­de­pen­dent and are not blocked from prob­ing al­leged IDF vi­o­la­tions, the ICC un­der its own statute should be pre­vented from in­ter­ven­ing, on the grounds that it only steps in where na­tions do not self-in­ves­ti­gate.

Lt.-Col. Ron Katzir, head of the IDF In­ter­na­tional Law Depart­ment, told the MKs “there are probes into in­ci­dents in which our fight­ers are in­volved all of the time, in­clud­ing dur­ing this pe­riod.”

Katzir added, “In the IDF le­gal divi­sion, we view these in­ter­nal probes [of the le­gal­ity of sol­diers’ con­duct] with great im­por­tance. The IDF mil­i­tary ad­vo­cate-gen­eral gets full support from the com­mand ech­e­lon, but acts in­de­pen­dently.”

Ac­cord­ing to Livni, the bot­tom line is that in­ter­na­tional le­gal fo­rums to date have not in­dicted IDF sol­diers out of re­spect for Is­rael’s Supreme Court and its ap­pa­ra­tus for prob­ing sol­diers for al­leged war crimes.

In con­trast, she said re­duc­ing the Supreme Court’s power – there are ini­tia­tives to al­low the Knes­set to over­ride the court on is­sues that are con­tro­ver­sial glob­ally – would lead to greater vul­ner­a­bil­ity for IDF sol­diers glob­ally.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that the Knes­set panel was given ex­am­ples where Is­rael’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions against its own sol­diers, its le­gal ef­forts in­ter­na­tion­ally, and the Supreme Court’s rep­u­ta­tion, were men­tioned by for­eign courts as a ba­sis to dis­miss for­eign cases against Is­raelis.

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