Israel should thank Judge Richard Goldstone and his commission's important report. After subjecting him to useless, automatic mudslinging, Israel suddenly realized that it should finally investigate the events of Operation Cast Lead. Why? What happened? The ground has started to tremble under the feet of a number of Israeli statesmen and officers.
That, it turns out, is the only way to teach us a lesson. Goldstone held up a mirror to us; we tried to smash it, as is our wont, but this time, as opposed to earlier reports, smashing it did not work. Suddenly it was reported (and denied) that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has asked former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak to head an investigative committee, suddenly the head of Military Intelligence is calling for the adoption of the "ethics code" composed by Prof. Asa Kasher, and suddenly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an urgent meeting to discuss establishing an investigative committee.
What happened? Again, it turns out, everything is personal. It is also too little, too late: An "investigative committee" is not enough, nor is the ethics code written by Kasher, who told Maariv a few days ago that the Gazan doctor Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish was responsible for the deaths of his daughters. And yet it's good the ground has started to quake under our feet.
Are Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi sweating? That's the only way Israel will learn. Not only if it is proved that there were war crimes in Gaza, but if people also have to pay for their actions. That is good news for Israel: Thanks to Goldstone, people in Israel will think twice and perhaps even three times before they bring down another barrage of cast lead on a helpless civilian population.
From now on, Israel's only consideration will not be minimum losses on its side. From now on, the international and personal implications of every brutal attack will be taken into account. That's exactly the function of international bodies: to prevent more unbridled attacks like Cast Lead. Thus Goldstone fulfilled his task, and in so doing proved he is a Zionist and friend of Israel. Thanks to him, Israel may change its belligerent ways and look at them in the future through the prism of international law and the personal cost involved in breaking it. If up to now we thought only how to kill without being killed, from now on we will think about the price tag attached to mass killing of the other side.
It's a pity we waited for Goldstone, a pity that we are so dependent on pressure by foreigners to fashion our own image and that only when personal harm appears imminent are we prepared to take a good hard look at ourselves. If ever there were a war that should be investigated on our own initiative, and immediately, it is Cast Lead. While it caused us few losses, and therefore no one thought to investigate it, what happened in Gaza cannot remain suspended in space, and those responsible cannot act as if nothing happened.
The wounds of Gaza have not yet healed, the debris has not yet been cleared and the housing there has not yet been rehabilitated. Israel has also not been rehabilitated. It still insists that everything went as it should have. But cracks are now appearing. There is something cynical and depressing about the fact that it is happening only after Israeli leaders started to fear for their personal fates. Now it may be hoped that Goldstone, the United Nations and the world will not give in. No Israeli would want to see Barak arrested in London, but every fair Israeli should hope that if war crimes were committed in his name, those responsible will pay the price, and better that it be in Israel.
The hollow, demagogic argument many Israelis use that Israel did in Gaza what everyone does might be true, but it is morally distorted. No traffic violator or any other criminal can excuse his actions by saying "everybody is doing it."
Is the world hard on Israel? Perhaps. But Israel also enjoys endless preferential treatment. The world acts differently toward us, turns a blind eye to Dimona and is silent about the occupation, and now it no longer wants to keep silent about Gaza. Why? Because this time we went too far. That is not only the world's right, it is its duty.
Goldstone began the work, Israel should continue it. In the end, the image that looks out from Goldstone's mirror is our image, not his.