I want to know how and why it was decided to embark on Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip and to expand it into a ground offensive. I want to know if the decisions were affected by the Israeli election campaign then underway and the change in U.S. presidents. I want to know if the leaders who launched the operation correctly judged the political damage it would cause Israel and what they did to minimize it. I want to know if those who gave orders to the Israel Defense Forces assumed that hundreds of Palestinian civilians would be killed, and how they tried to prevent this.
These questions should be at the center of an investigation into Operation Cast Lead. An investigation is necessary because of the political complexities that resulted from the operation, the serious harm to Palestinian civilians, the Goldstone report and its claims of war crimes, and the limits that will be imposed on the IDF’s freedom of operation in the future. There is no room to argue that the government should be allowed to govern without interference and investigations, with the public passing judgment at the ballot box. The government changed after the Gaza operation and the questions remain troublesome.
The investigations by the army and Military Police are meant to examine soldiers’ behavior on the battlefield. They are no substitute for a comprehensive examination of the activities of the political leadership and senior command, who are responsible for an operation and its results. It’s not the company or battalion commanders who need to be investigated, but former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and the heads of the intelligence chiefs and Foreign Ministry, who were party to the decisions. It is also important to investigate Barak and Livni’s election campaign advisers to find out if and how the campaign affected the military and diplomatic efforts. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — Aluf Benn raises lots of important questions. One that he leaves out is this: Did Israel’s preparations for a war on Gaza in the first half of 2008 indicate that the truce with Hamas that began on June 18 last year was accepted by Israel in bad faith?
At the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, Haaretz reported:
Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well.
The political line has always been “we had no choice,” but the truth might be that Israel’s leaders had made their choice for war well before it became “inevitable”.
Benn asks: “Who decided to bomb the flour mill and sewage treatment center in Gaza, and why?” Again, the question of when such facilities were added to a target list is extremely important. If the preparations that Barak referred to included drawing up target lists of this type then Israel would appear to have knowingly planned and committed war crimes, breaking the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits collective punishment.
One of the “lessons” of the 2006 war on Lebanon was that Israel didn’t have carefully developed target lists — that it quickly ran out of military targets and thereafter capriciously sought new and ill-conceived targets. That would imply that most of the targets in Gaza had been selected well before a single missile had been fired.