January 23, 2009
Israel to approve aid for IDF officers accused of Gaza war crimes
01.23.2009 | Haaretz
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
The government is set to approve a bill Sunday to grant aid and support to Israel Defense Forces officers in cases where they face suits for alleged war crimes from Operation Cast Lead.
The bill, titled “strengthening the IDF’s hand after Operation Cast Lead”, was put forward by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and coordinated by the Ministry or Defense, Ministry of Justice and State Prosecutor. There is growing concern at the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Justice that Israeli officers will be singled out in a wave of suits for alleged human rights violations.
Barak said Friday that the government carries the responsibility for sending IDF soldiers on military operations and as a result is obligated to grant them complete support against any possible harm to them stemming from those operations.
“I do not know of any army that operates at the high standards that the IDF operates,” Barak said. “There is no place for an automatic backlash following every operation.”
Barak wrote in the bill that the IDF behaved according to its high moral values during Cast Lead, in spite of the fact that Hamas gunmen fired on IDF troops from areas heavily populated with civilians, in clear violation of international law.
“As an army which is unsurpassed in its moral traditions, the IDF has done all that it can in order to adhere to international law, in order to avoid harming civilians who are not involved in fighting,” Barak said, adding that such moral principles “have not always been enough to prevent tragedies from happening.”
“Nonetheless, Hamas cynically uses its civilians in a manner that places responsibility for the results upon their shoulders,” Barak added.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appointed Justice Minister Daniel Friedman to head a team that will examine methods to avoid war crimes charges for those involved in IDF operations in Gaza. The decision comes as a result of civilian casualties that happened as a result of Operation Cast Lead.