The government’s decision to back IDF troops is mere propaganda for domestic purposes. It won’t help any soldier who happens to be detained overseas. Rather, it constitutes the direct continuation of the odd decision endorsed by the attorney general to conceal the names of IDF officers who fought in Gaza.
If everything we did in Gaza was kosher, why do we need to hide the soldiers’ names, as if they are thieves in hiding?
In fact, the best way to protect IDF troops is to establish an independent commission of inquiry. According to international law, the precondition for turning to a universal authority is a failure by the relevant State to adequately look into events and indict the responsible parties for alleged war crimes.
Such inquiry would not only address a moral need, but would also serve the soldiers’ interest and provide them with more effective defense than that offered by the government’s backing. An inquiry is also less shameful than the attorney general’s concealment trick.
So why did the State shy away from launching such inquiry? The reason is the question mark that happens to pertain to the overall policy, which was given expression via the deputy army chief’s statement: “We are not only hitting the terrorists and rocket launchers, but rather, the entire Hamas administration.”
The bombing of buildings that are not used as firing pads or hideouts for gunmen and the razing of residential homes by bulldozers and fighter jets – if such acts were indeed undertaken – are the kind of moves that could be suspected to constitute violations of international law. Yet these acts are not the result of independent initiative by soldiers. Rather, they stem from high-level policy that was determined during discussions in government ministries and conference rooms.
Leave soldiers alone
So now, after our politicians praised themselves over the fighting in Gaza, the time has come to assume responsibility. As usual, the politicians and legal advisors grant permission and take the credit. Yet when the time comes to assume responsibility, they are lesser heroes.
The announcement we could expect from the government and from the attorney general is as follows: Leave the soldiers alone; they were just doing their job. If someone is responsible here, it’s only us.
This announcement should be accompanied by another decision, on the establishment of a commission of inquiry that would look into concrete charges pertaining to the violation of international law. If such violations are uncovered, the committee would have to not only ascertain who committed them, but also whether the acts came within the framework approved by the political leadership.
This commission of inquiry should not be established by the attorney general or IDF Prosecutor’s Office. Both are deeply involved in the decision-making process. Instead, the committee must enjoy substantial public stature, and should be appointed by the state comptroller.