Barak. Doesn't want soldiers probed
Photo: Yaron Brener
Judge Richard Goldstone
Barak: Don't involve IDF in Goldstone probe
In face of international pressure to appoint independent commission of inquiry into Operation Cast Lead, defense minister wants team of senior Israeli and foreign legal experts to examine government's instructions to IDF during operation, investigation of incidents by judge advocate general
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who opposes the appointment of an independent commission of inquiry into the Israeli operation in Gaza, has come up with a general draft for an investigation in response to the international pressure on Israel.
According to Barak's plan, a team of senior and highly esteemed legal experts from Israel and abroad will look into the instructions issued by the government to the Israel Defense Forces' top command during Operation Cast Lead and the investigation of incidents by the judge advocate general.
The defense minister and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi firmly reject the demand to appoint an independent commission of inquiry – an idea supported by Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Ministers Avishay Braverman and Michael Eitan.
Barak and Ashkenazi object to the possibility that IDF commanders and soldiers would be questioned by such a committee. Through the legal experts' committee the defense minister hopes to appoint, he is interested in influencing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to give in to the other ministers' pressure.
Jerusalem, meanwhile, is waiting for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's reaction to the official Israeli response to the Goldstone Report, which accused the Jewish state of committing war crimes in Gaza.
Jerusalem is not rushing into the second stage – a decision to appoint a commission of inquiry, before Ban responds to the first part of the Israeli response this Friday.
Nonetheless, an increasing number of ministers and legal experts have been saying that the government will have no choice but to carry out another inquiry, due to the fear that an insufficient response on Israel's part will bring the matter to the UN Security Council's decision, and perhaps even to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The cabinet's top seven ministers met Sunday afternoon for a secret discussion. About an hour after the meeting was concluded, the ministers were summoned urgently to another discussion which will be held Monday morning at the cabinet secretariat in Jerusalem. It is quite possible that this discussion will deal with the options of appointing a commission of inquiry, ahead of the UN chief's expected response.