'International defenders': How Israeli jurist back IDF in war

As the world watches Israel's actions against Hamas with extreme scrutiny, jurists in the country work tirelessly to accompany the IDF throughout the war

Tova Zimuki|
They're actively involved in security discussions and closely accompany the political, operational and information (hasbara) decision-making, they stand by the IDF and serve as a barrier against international claims. "Personal Individually selected targets, such as 'targeted killings', are considered a difficult dilemma. The difficulty is in finding the balance and a proportionate solution," says a senior legal official.
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Immediately after the onset of the Gaza war, and prior to U.S. President Joe Biden's request for Israel to adhere to international law in its operations in the Gaza Strip, Israel's highest legal rank was brought into the operational security consultations, and since then it ensures that all the political, operational and informational decision-making will be in adherence to the law.
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גלי בהרב מיארה, חיילי צה"ל
גלי בהרב מיארה, חיילי צה"ל
IDF soldiers, Gali Baharav-Miara
(Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch, AP Photo Tsafrir Abayov)
Namely, the Attorney General of Israel, Gali Baharav-Miara, and especially her three deputies: Sharon Afek, who served as chief military advocate general, Gil-Ad Noam the deputy for international affairs, and an equally important participant - the Chief Military Advocate General, Major General Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi and her team.
The reasons [for such legal accompaniment] - the desire to comply with the principles of the applicable law in Israel, which includes maintaining the instructions and rulings of the High Court of Justice; the need to reduce to the minimum harm to innocents who are used as a human shield by the terrorist organizations, led by Hamas, designed to thwart Israel's operational activity; to protect Israel from lawsuits filed by international legal tribunals, and the necessity to maintain its informative and political image in the world and especially in front of the countries of the Western world.
As soon as the dimensions of the [October 7th] horror became clear and when it was evident that Israel was preparing for a response, the civil and military legal advice stood by the army, non-stop.
Even during the tenure of the former Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who previously served as the Chief Military Advocate General, legal advisors were brought into meetings where decisions were made.
The advisors derive their authority from the chief military advocate and, if necessary, consult with him regarding the legality of activities. The top military and security legal team convene during such military operations in the IDF headquarters. The members of the IDF international law department provide the military commanders with legal advice.
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כוחות צה"ל בגבול לבנון
כוחות צה"ל בגבול לבנון
IDF forces on the Lebanon border

Laws in war

A legal official clarified that when consultations take place, it is the security echelon that presents the targets of the attack. The analysis deals with the legitimacy of a certain target proposed by the operational and security level and with what is illegal or illegitimate.
"Personal targets, such as 'targeted killing', are considered a difficult dilemma. The difficulty is in finding the balances and a proportional solution. It is necessary to balance between the military benefit - the seniority of the target and its terrorist activity directly or indirectly, its intention to carry out terror attacks, and the timing of such operation - the one-time opportunity that allows to carry out the killing. All of this against the damage in terms of harming uninvolved civilians who are in close proximity to the target."
The officials clarified that in the past there have been cases where bombing missions were canceled for planes that were already in the air after it became clear that widespread killing of innocents was expected to be involved.
In the response of the Israeli government to the international tribunal seated in The Hague in connection with Operation Protective Edge, the scope was expanded to the use of civilians not involved in combat. "Hamas and other terrorist organizations placed their military assets and operations within densely populated areas and within civilian buildings in the Gaza Strip as part of their military strategy," it said.
"By conducting combat from within a civilian environment, Hamas and other terrorist organizations have often turned civilian structures into military targets, and thus exposing them and the civilians in their surroundings to the risk of being injured," it added.
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תיעוד מתקיפות צה"ל ברצועת עזה במלחמת חרבות ברזל
תיעוד מתקיפות צה"ל ברצועת עזה במלחמת חרבות ברזל
Israeli airstrike carried out in Gaza
(Photo: IDF Spokesperon's Unit)
"This, in a manner that violated the laws of war and often escalated into war crimes and crimes against humanity. Hamas and other terrorist organizations have used UN facilities, schools, hospitals, mosques, residential buildings, and the immediate surroundings of all these, for military targets."
Israel is in an "armed conflict" in Gaza, but Israel must comply with the laws of war and a series of international treaties, primarily the Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a party.
However, Hamas is not required to abide by these laws and he commits war crimes at any given moment - the murder of 1,400 soldiers and civilians, the kidnapping of civilians and soldiers without reporting them and their health to international institutions, the use of an uninvolved population as human shields in hospitals and educational institutions, starving the population and preventing them from moving to quieter areas.
And so, in the internal discussions which the jurists attend, they examine the operational "target bank" and mainly examine whether the harm required to promote the counter-system, the elimination of Hamas leaders, and the organization's operational infrastructure, will be done in a proportionate manner.
A senior legal official clarifies that the current operation is undoubtedly a response to merciless and unprecedented atrocities against an innocent civilian Israeli population, including unarmed children and the elderly, and against soldiers.
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כוחות צה"ל בגבול הרצועה
כוחות צה"ל בגבול הרצועה
IDF forces in southern Israel
(Photo: AP Photo Tsafrir Abayov)

Israel's High Court is crucial

This will inevitably affect the balance point of proportionality. It is estimated that the legal rank will act with less restraint in the use of force, when there are targets and types of weapons that when hitting them at a certain timing will prevent harming soldiers, as opposed to potentially harming uninvolved civilians in Gaza.
The decision-makers will assess the importance and availability of the operational achievement taking into consideration the harm to IDF soldiers and harm to uninvolved civilians in Gaza.
After all that, Israel will also be protected by the High Court of Justice, which is considered as "Israel's International defender." The evaluation prevalent in the legal system is that the escalation of the conflict in Gaza will result in submitting petitions to the Supreme Court by civil organizations claiming that the IDF is using excessive force that harms uninvolved civilians.
They will also claim that the IDF is withholding humanitarian aid to civilians. The High Court of Justice is already accustomed to hearing these petitions. As far as the Western world and the International Court of Justice in The Hague are concerned, the Israeli Supreme Court is considered an independent authority.
If it guarantees that the claims are examined or will be examined in the independent legal forums in Israel, then in the name of the principle of legal "complementarity" no international sanctions will be imposed on Israel.
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