Israel’s impunity for possible Gaza war crimes slowly recedes, drawing the circle tighter and tighter around IDF officers who might be implicated for their command roles in the Gaza war. The inestimable Didi Remez offers this coverage of the story from the Israeli media:
At the last minute, Israel canceled a work visit of Israeli officers to the UK due to concern that arrest warrants would be issued against them.
The Israeli delegation, comprised of officers ranking colonel, lieutenant colonel and major, was invited by the British army to examine military cooperation. Due to concern that warrants of arrest would be issued, Israeli officials contacted British government officials in advance and demanded that they guarantee that the officers would not be arrested. This is after two weeks ago, a warrant of arrest was issued against Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and earlier there were attempts to have a similar warrant issued against Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
To the great astonishment of the Israelis—the British announced last week that they could not guarantee that the officers would not be arrested. Consultations were held in Israel among the top echelons and it was decided: under the present circumstances, no risk should be taken, and the visit was canceled.
This is how culpability is gradually established through a nip here and a tuck there until finally there is nothing left but to bring the matter to a head. That is when an arrest will finally be made and a trial held.
Israel seems to believe that because it is a nation like all others that it deserves special treatment to ensure it’s officers will not have to face such unpleasantness:
Israel views this matter very seriously and officials say that it directly harms the security cooperation between the two countries. High-ranking officials also say that the situation that has been created in Britain is completely unacceptable and requires immediate legislative rectification.
…The Israeli officials intend to make it clear to Baroness Scotland that Israel expects a change in British legislation that would ensure that officers and Israeli personages cannot be arrested in Britain because of lawsuits against them for their part in IDF operations. “The risk to senior Israeli figures does concrete and immediate damage to bilateral relations,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. He said “organizations that are hostile to Israel try to exploit the legal channels and legal tools to threaten the Israeli and British decision-makers, including the authorities of the attorney general herself, and to thereby create political facts that should be determined around the diplomatic negotiating table.” Ayalon warned that the situation created in Britain also caused damage beyond its borders, since it increased similar initiatives in other places in the world.
But the truth is it is a nation not quite like others in that it has numerous charges of war crimes for the Gaza and Lebanon wars and other acts of terror against civilians to answer for. But minister Ayalon needn’t worry about the Brits setting an example to be followed elsewhere around the world, other legal venues don’t need Britain’s example to follow suit since they are already preparing their own courses of action should opportunities present themselves.
In a subsequent post, Didi reports that Yediot reveals the names of two of the officers who were put in herem:
Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that Brig. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Colonel Itai Virob were part of the military delegation that was supposed to leave for Britain last week.
Brig. Gen. Herzi Halevi
As reported yesterday, Israel canceled the planned visit by the military delegation to the UK after British authorities said they could not guarantee that the IDF officers would not be arrested. Brig. Gen. Halevi was the commander of the Paratroopers Brigade during Operation Cast Lead, and Colonel Virob, formerly the commander of the Kfir Brigade, also entered the Gaza Strip in the course of that operation with one of his battalions.
Didi provides further background about Virob, noting that he is the IDF commander who testified in a trial of a soldier accused of military misconduct in abusing a Palestinian that such behavior was a normal and accepted part of IDF routine in enforcing the rules of the military Occupation.
The British attorney general seems to have taken her marching orders from the Israeli foreign ministry:
British Attorney General Patricia Scotland said last night in a lecture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem: The government understands the urgent need to change the system in order to prevent lawsuits against Israelis, and is determined to enable Israeli leaders to travel freely to Britain.
But she seems to acknowledge a slight problem in that the Israelis may actually be legally culpable under international law for their deeds. Hmm, that does pose an awkward complication:
The British attorney general said that there should not be a safe haven for war criminals in any democratic country, but it should also be ensured that the law would not be used for the sake of one political campaign or another. Scotland emphasized that until the law was amended, the policy according to which judges could issue arrest warrants against senior Israeli figures would not change.
The last I checked international laws of war didn’t make any distinction between a “political campaign” and a legitimate legal redress. So to call efforts to bring Israelis officers and political leaders to heel for their actions “political” begs the question: what are Israel’s acts if not political as well? Let’s take these issues out of the realm of the political and bring them before a court of justice. And in order to ensure that the campaign isn’t seen as one-sided let’s include figures on both sides who may’ve strayed from acceptable norms of conduct. Let’s Goldstone the whole bunch! Of course, the Israelis and their supporters know that Israel stands much more to lose from this since it has killed far more civilians and has far more political, military and intelligence officials with some form of blood on their hands. That is why this is a bargain Israel cannot afford to accept.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.