Israel to grant legal aid to IDF troops accused of Gaza war crimes
'Soldiers sent to Gaza need to know they're safe from tribunals,' says PM as government okays decision.
The Cabinet declared on Sunday that it would grant aid and support to Israel Defense Forces officers in cases where they face suits for alleged war crimes committed in Gaza.
"Israel will give full support to everyone who operated for it and on behalf of it. The commanders and soldiers who were sent to Gaza need to know that they are safe from various tribunals," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting.
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 of 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 during the recent 3-week offensive against Hamas.
"The terrorist organizations and Hamas were mistaken in thinking that Israel would reconcile itself to [rocket] fire and not respond," Olmert added.
"Now after the operation, the organizations are trying to settle accounts with the State of Israel, and one of the central arenas in which they are doing so is the arena of international law, by means of the moralistic diplomatic tact that characterizes these groups."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak joined Olmert in pledging support for the soldiers. Calling the IDF "the most moral army in the world," Barak said troops would receive governmental backing against accusations from abroad and "self-flagellation" from within Israel.
Olmert added that terror organizations are trying to turn attacker into attacked and vice-versa by pinning responsibility on IDF soldiers instead of blaming terrorism. He said also said Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann would consult with Israel's top legal experts and find "answers to possible questions relating to the Israeli military's activities" during the campaign.
More than 1,250 Palestinians were reportedly killed during Israel's offensive against Hamas in the coastal territory. Israel has been harshly criticized for the large number of civilians among the Palestinian dead, of whom they numbered more than half according to Gaza officials.