IDF: War crime charges over Gaza offensive are 'legal terror'
Col. Liron Liebman: IDF will complete five investigations in coming weeks relating to wartime incidents.
War crimes charges brought abroad against Israeli soldiers and officers involved in Operation Cast Lead are nothing but "legal terrorism," Col. Liron Liebman, who heads the military prosecution's international law department, said Wednesday.
Liebman, who recently replaced Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, was speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem about the role of the law in fighting terror.
There is little chance that war crimes charges abroad will end in conviction, or, for that matter, in acquittal, since procedural issues will end up derailing the allegations before they reach that stage, Liebman told Haaretz. But that doesn't much matter to those bringing the charges, he said.
"The goal is achieved when the charges are publicized," Liebman said. "The objective is to cause damage to morale, more than legal damage."
In Spain, for instance, legal charges are being brought over the Gaza war. Liebman says this is no coincidence: The country was the site of major protests against Israel while the fighting was taking place.
He also said the Israel Defense Forces would be completing five investigations within the next few weeks relating to a variety of wartime incidents. Although the military prosecution was involved in providing legal opinions regarding Operation Cast Lead, Liebman said it did not play a role in choosing the targets nor could it be present in the pilot's cockpit.
"Even the brigade commander doesn't always know what's going on," he said. "The fog of war applies to us as well. You have to make a distinction between planning the targets ahead of time and checking whether it's possible to attack targets [on the one hand] and ad hoc factors in the field [on the other], when there are forces firing on our troops or a pilot has three seconds to decide one way or the other."
If the investigations reveal that Israeli troops committed offenses or exceeded their authority, "they will be dealt with appropriately," Liebman said.
"Commanders during the fighting shouldn't be losing sleep because of the investigations," he added. "It's impossible not to make mistakes in such a crowded environment, under pressure. There's a large gap between mistakes and the 'war crimes' people like to accuse us of."
Indeed, international law expert Yoram Dinstein said at a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv late last month that a ratio of three or four civilian deaths per combatant death was the norm in most wars.