Livni: Goldstone Probe Based on 'Perverted System of Values'

Deputy PM: Reveal minutes of Gaza war cabinet meetings as substitute for inquiry into Goldstone report.

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Kadima Chairwoman and opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that the Goldstone Commission's report into Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip was "based on a perverted system of values."

Livni, who served as foreign minister during the war earlier this year, made the statement while touring Nitzan, a Negev community largely inhabited by families evacuated from Gush Katif during the 2005 disengagement from Gaza.

"Operation Cast Lead was necessary," Livni said, "There is no need to reach an agreement with Hamas."

She stressed that a country under attack "must respond in a way that returns the intimidation."

"I expect the international community to distinguish between murder and unintentional killing," Livni said, "Operation Cast Lead will be tested by the parameters of self judgment."

Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai earlier Sunday suggested that Israel reveal the minutes of the cabinet meetings held during the Gaza war, as a substitute for the establishment of a state inquiry into the 3-week offensive against Hamas.

Israel has come under tremendous international pressure to establish an internal commission of inquiry, following the publication of a damning United Nations report on the conflict.

Yishai, who is also the interior minister and head of the Shas party, told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the weekly cabinet meeting that the minutes would show the great sensitivity with which Israel conducted its campaign in the Hamas-ruled territory.

He said the minutes would reveal how Israel sought to avoid harming civilians, and as such would meet the need for an inquiry.

The 575-page report, drawn up by former South African judge Richard Goldstone, accuses both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes, but focuses mainly on alleged Israeli offenses. It concludes that Israel used disproportionate force and failed to protect civilians.

Cabinet in turmoil over Israeli Gaza War probe

Debate has intensified within the cabinet over whether Israel should set up a commission of inquiry regarding the Goldstone report's allegations.

The continuing debate led on Saturday to an embarrassing incident after comments made by Netanyahu in an interview with The Washington Post indicated the possibility of setting up a commission of inquiry. The comments angered Defense Minister Ehud Barak and led to a clarification by Netanyahu's bureau.

In a private meeting on Saturday evening, Netanyahu reportedly said that "the Israel Defense Forces operates on the battlefield in the most ethical way. It is an army that investigates and examines itself in the most thorough way, more than any other army in the world."The prime minister added that there is no change in his stance regarding the establishment of a commission of inquiry. "I have still not formed a stance and have not made a decision on this matter, and there is no change," he reportedly said.

Sources at the Prime Minister's Bureau said that even though Netanyahu had not yet decided on the matter, it is being evaluated in light of a request by ministers and senior government officials such as Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to consider setting up a committee.

"The issue is on the table and the PM is hearing various views on the matter, but at this time is not inclined either way," a source in the PM's bureau said on Satuday.

In an interview with The Washington Post published on Saturday, Netanyahu was asked about the Goldstone report and whether he supported the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry. Netanyahu did not reject the possibility and said that "we're looking into that not because of the Goldstone report but because of our own internal needs. The best way to defuse this issue is to speak the truth because Israel was defending itself with just means against an unjust attack."

Once the interview was published, the PM's bureau realized that the matter was likely to ruffle the feathers of Defense Minister Ehud Barak because Netanyahu had not rejected the possibility of a committee.

Barak's office was quick to respond: "The minister reiterates that he opposes any committee that would investigate the officers and soldiers of the IDF," it said in a statement.

According to the statement, Barak said he "has full confidence in the investigations that have been carried out and are being carried out by the IDF."

'No other army investigates itself the way the IDF does'

Barak reiterated - and Netanyahu was quick to follow with the following comment: "There is no other army in the world that investigates itself the way the IDF does."

The PM's bureau issued a statement of clarification saying that "in his statements to The Washington Post the PM did not suggest that he is considering creating an investigative committee."

Sources at the PM's bureau said the text of the interview shows that Netanyahu's comments were taken out of context in Israel.

Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi continue to vehemently oppose any external committee of inquiry into Operation Cast Lead. This is the position the two presented at the cabinet meeting last week.

However, it might be possible that the army would agree to a committee that would review internal assessments and probes into the operation, carried out by the IDF itself. Committee members would hold meetings with the authors of the reports.

However, the committee will not have the authority of a commission of inquiry.

Both Barak and Ashkenazi reject the possibility of a committee with similar authority as that which examined the Second Lebanon War. The two are opposed to any IDF officer or soldier appearing before an investigative panel.

In the IDF there are concerns about the likely long-term implications of an external committee of inquiry, both because of the unusual restrictions that the IDF would have to adopt in future operations, but also because of the impact a committee's work would have on the officers' morale, which could cost soldiers' lives.

The clarification issued on Saturday evening by the PM's bureau suggests that those in the cabinet opposed to the establishment of a committee still hold the upper hand. But the IDF top brass recognize that this matter is far from over, and that international pressure may result in yet another discussion on a committee and that the PM may reconsider his stance.

At the IDF the PM's stance in the interview with the Washington Post was seen as a trial balloon to evaluate reaction in Israel.

A senior source in the General Staff told Haaretz that one of the lessons of Cast Lead and the Goldstone report was that Israel's future wars will have to be as short as possible. The source said that longer wars mean complications, civilian casualties and severe international criticism, and Israel will have to achieve results on the battlefield before international pressure is brought to bear.

Similar conclusions were reached by the PM, in large part following conversations with senior IDF officers.

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