Israeli officials on Monday slammed an independent United Nations report that found evidence that Israel committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict, calling it "biased" and stained with "blood on its hand for allowing the murder of Jews."
- UN commission finds evidence of war crimes by Israel, Hamas during 2014 Gaza war
- UN Commission into 2014 Gaza conflict: Press release
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the head of the inquiry commission, which was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, of "inciting and agitating against Israel."
"The commission which wrote [the report] was appointed by a council that calls itself a human right council [but] in fact does everything but defend human rights," Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting on Monday. "Israel doesn't commit war crimes, but defends itself from a terrorist organization which calls for its destruction. We will not sit idly by. We'll continue to act with strength and decisiveness against all those who try to harm us and our citizens and we'll do so in accordance with international law," Netanyahu said.
The report, released on Monday, found that both Israel and Palestinian militant groups may have committed war crimes during the conflict last summer, and called the devastation caused in the Palestinian territory "unprecedented." The members of the commission, which was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, hinted in their report that the upper levels of the Israeli political echelon were responsible for the policies that led to some of these war crimes.
Education Minister Nafatali Bennett said the report "has blood on its hands for allowing the murder of Jews."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said in response that the report is "distorted and has one aim: To tarnish Israel's image and add fuel to the fire of de-legitimization."
Ya'alon said Israel did "everything it could to avoid harm to civilians," and added that Hamas erected rocket launchers in civilian population centers. "The attempt to compare Israel and Hamas, or to present Israel as committing war crimes, is despicable," Ya'alon said.
The Foreign Ministry disputed the findings of the report, accusing the UNHRC of having a "singular obsession" with Israel."
According to the foreign ministry, the process that led to the establishment of the UN commission and the report was politically motivated.
"This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said.
"The UN Human Rights Council has a singular obsession with Israel, passing more country specific resolutions against Israel than against Syria, Iran and North Korea combined. The commission of inquiry's mandate presumed Israel guilty from the start," Nachshon added.
Nachshon also claimed the UNHRC lacked the necessary tools and expertise to conduct a professional examination of armed conflict situations.
"Israel will consider the report in light of these essential failings. It would encourage all fair-minded observers to do the same," the Foreign Ministry statement said
Nachshon added that the Israeli army operated in the Gaza Strip in order to defend Israeli citizens from terrorist attacks, while the Palestinian terror groups who committed a "double war crime: They indiscriminately target Israeli civilians while deliberately endangering Palestinian civilians, including children, by using them as human shields."
"In defending itself against attacks, Israel's military acted according to the highest international standards," said the statement.
"Israel will continue to uphold its commitment to the law of armed conflict despite the brutal tactics of its enemies. Israel will continue to investigate alleged wrongdoing in accordance with international standards and to cooperate with those UN bodies that conduct themselves in an objective, fair and professional manner," the statement said.
'Prevent the next cycle'
The Zionist Union chairman and opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, said in response to the report that "the IDF is a moral army, and I don't need no international report and no commission to know that."
In a Facebook post, Herzog said: "While for Hamas the killing of innocents is the prime objective, I can say from my own experience at many cabinet meetings that the question of harm to innocent bystanders is always debated and carries a lot of weight in Israel's operational decisions."
Herzog also said: "The only important thing with regards to Gaza is to do everything to prevent the next cycle. For that we need to support an initiative that will lead to its demilitarization and rehabilitation soon."
At Monday’s meeting of the Zionist Union Knesset faction, MK Tzipi Livni stated that the UN report on Operation Protective Edge is a report born in sin, written by a commission that systematically and deliberately attacks Israel. “We won’t accept a comparison between terrorists and IDF soldiers; we won’t allow talking about soldiers and terrorists in the same breath – that’s an important distinction for any country combating terror. IDF soldiers fight terrorists, even if civilians are sometimes hurt. Terrorist organizations don’t discriminate, killing soldiers and civilians alike. It doesn’t matter if it’s five year old Daniel Tragerman last year or Danny Gonen, who was murdered last Friday in Dolev. Those are the targets of terror.”
“The second thing we won’t permit is the investigation of IDF soldiers by the world. Israel is a democracy which examines itself with the aid of a strong judiciary. The world has to respect what we do on our own and not go after it with a UN commission or at the court in The Hague.”