Israel's third report in response to the Goldstone report, which was submitted to the United Nations last week, consists of changes and updates in the Israel Defense Forces' standing orders following Operation Cast Lead.
The army will restrict the use of white phosphorous bombs in the future, appoint officers for "humanitarian" issues to accompany every battalion and update its directives on protecting civilians and their property during warfare.
After questioning 500 officers, examining 150 complaints and the Military Police's 47 investigations that generated a number of indictments - including one for manslaughter and one for using a child as a human shield - the IDF's investigation of itself is almost over.
At first the IDF insisted that everything in the operation had been in order, that white phosphorus or human shields had not been used illegally, that no civilians were killed for no reason and there was no unnecessary destruction. Now the army has been forced to renege and open investigations it would not have conducted had it not been for the Goldstone report, human rights groups' reports and coverage in the Israeli and international media.
Now, when it turns out the censure of Israel had plenty of truth in it, it is time to thank the critics for forcing the IDF to examine itself and amend its procedures. Even if not all of Richard Goldstone's 32 charges were solid and valid, some of them certainly were.
It is regrettable that so much time had to be wasted on false denials. It is also doubtful whether it is proper for the IDF to investigate itself.
Hence, after the public incitement campaign (some of it conducted by the IDF Spokesman's Office ) against the critics and whistle-blowers, the IDF would do well to recant and admit that the censure helped it redraft the ethics code by which it will act from now on. Better late (and little ) than never. The senior command must also come out now against the complaints recently made by officers for being investigated. These investigations are also part of the reason for the IDF's possibly changed conduct in the next war.
The IDF's belated inquiries and the willingness to change its directives hold an important lesson for the political leadership as well. It is better to display openness and cooperate with international committees than to boycott them and then accept some of their demands under pressure.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak should consider this lesson in their response to the international investigations into the Turkish flotilla affair.
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