When I first read the headline for this story, Deputy PM: Israel needs internal probe of Gaza war, I was pleasantly shocked: imagine, a senior Israeli official calling for the very investigation that Richard Goldstone and even Israeli human rights groups have been crying out for for months:
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor thinks Israel should establish its own independent committee to investigate Israel Defense Forces activity in the Gaza Strip during last winter’s Operation Cast Lead.
But when I read deeper into the story it became clear that Meridor was not describing an independent commission of inquiry, but one whose goal from the outset would be to absolve Israel of culpability for the mayhem of that war. Here are some of his further comments on the subject:
“I have faith in the army and it is my duty to protect it, its commanders and its soldiers – and the most effective tool for this is serious self-examination,” Meridor said in a recent interview with Haaretz. “A state that examines itself [protects itself from] harassment. Today, with the development of international law, one of the best means of defense is for a state to investigate itself.”
…”The commission of inquiry that I hope will be established must examine the Goldstone report’s claims, even if it is a biased report, and its mandate from the outset was to examine Israel’s crimes, and one of the committee’s members stated prior to the investigation that Israel commits war crimes,” said Meridor, who also serves as minister of intelligence and atomic energy. “But the threat is serious and a commission of inquiry should be established, also to examine the suitability of the rules of war to the new type of war that has been imposed on us.”
In other words, one of the chief purposes of this Israeli investigation would be to justify the Gaza war as a supposedly “new type of war” that requires the relaxation of traditional international rules of war. Supposedly, the type of threat posed by Hamas justifies the abandonment of the Geneva conventions because, gosh darnit, these terrorists just don’t fight fair and square. They hide behind the skirts of their women and children instead of fighting like the manly men we are.
Meridor’s comments above aren’t those of a man who believes in the enterprise he’s supposedly proposing. These are the words of a man who wants to create a sham commission of inquiry on his own government’s terms which will turn the current charges against Israel back on its opponents. This is the type of typical wily manuveuring we’ve come to expect from Israeli governments seeking desperately to avoid blame or opprobrium on the world stage. I don’t think it will work this time though. If Israel’s inquiry (if one ever happens) doesn’t find some measure of fault or culpability for someone for Israel’s Gaza war strategy, then the investigation will satisfy no one but the Likudist government and its supporters.
On the Palestinian track, Meridor was full of double-talk:
Meridor said the Netanyahu government was determined to reach a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, but added, “This doesn’t mean that an agreement is possible.”
My God, of course Bibi is dedicated body and soul to a final status agreement. It’s those pesky Palis who stand in the way. If the U.S. and the world has any problems they should address themselves to them and not us, because it’s not our fault.
This passage also raised my eyebrows:
The government will not agree to former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s proposal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said Meridor, because Netanyahu is not willing to cede sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Old City or grant the right of return, and is also opposed to a territorial exchange.
What will a final status agreement be if not a “territorial exchange?” And if you reject it before even beginning negotiations then in effect you’ve destined the talks to fail. If I read this correctly, it seems that Meridor is saying that Israel intends to keep the major settlements blocs, but not to compensate the Palestinians with Israeli land in exchange as previous proposals have stipulated. If so, that’s definitely a winning formula. Keep the Palestinian land you’ve stolen from them and on top of that not offer even inferior Israeli land in the Negev in exchange. This is really a new low in chutzpah, but certainly shouldn’t surprise us coming from this government.
If the IDF is “the most moral army in the world,” then certainly this government is the most forthcoming in the world.