Investigating the IDF Would Be the Real War Crime

Those who think an inquiry will not effect army decision making are fooling themselves.

There are positions which are difficult to understand anybody wanting to hold. One of these is a commander in the army. During every military campaign, we place them on a pedestal, send them to fight in our name and (supposedly) give them the backing of 90 percent of the public.

Each time, we lead them to believe that the support they received was so widespread that perhaps they would no longer be asked to pay the price for fighting our wars for us. And each time we betray them anew and abandon them on the battlefield to the devices of commissions of inquiry.

It is important to remember this: A commission of inquiry is not an entity whose purpose is to get to the truth. A commission of inquiry is an entity whose very existence affirms the fact that there was an oversight and a crime was perpetrated.

The commission's very being gives rise to an oversight. There has yet to be one commission of inquiry that was formed and failed to find any flaws, nor has there been one panel created only to dissolve with the following statement: "Sorry, you appointed us for no reason. You just wasted hundreds of thousands of shekels to subsidize our time and our wonderful sandwiches, and the real mistake was in our very formation."

Whoever thinks that such an inquiry does not have an impact on the willingness of quality, upstanding people to pursue a military career and the readiness of senior officers to make proper decisions in the field is burying their head deep in a jug of military camouflage face paint.

Every time the standing of the military's senior echelon of officers is discussed, one ought to bring up the question of why Lt. Col. Roi Klein, who jumped on a grenade during battle in Bint Jbeil in the Second Lebanon War and as a result saved the lives of his soldiers, has not been mythologized (and perhaps encouraged the mythologizing of others).

There was a time when we considered officers worthy of adulation. Today, we haul them before committees of inquiry. There was a time we feted acts of heroism and sacrifice, a time when we hailed those who won the battles for us. Today we consider them suckers.

During the Second Lebanon War, perhaps it was possible to claim that the war was not a rousing success and that this justified an investigation. It was certainly not a failure, but Israel's strategic predicament does not allow for anything less than a decisive victory. This was something the Israel Defense Forces should have taken into consideration.

But Operation Cast Lead was a resounding military success. It put a stop to the Qassam rocket fire in the south and we sustained few casualties. Yet even this success does not relieve the commanders of the need to go into battle with a lawyer in tow.

There is no way to wage combat in Gaza without harming the civilian population, and it is obvious that the IDF did much to avoid this. We are essentially telling our commanders: Your war is never over, and even if your life was saved, your career is in danger. No deed geared toward Israel's defense will go unpunished.

IDF officers and their charges are not the only ones whose faces we are spitting in by entertaining the very idea of establishing a commission of inquiry. What message are we sending to the residents of the south? That we accept the claim that firing thousands of Qassam rockets on their heads is not a war crime, but our operation is?

One needs to be blind not to recognize the fact that the world is judging us by a double standard. It does not change the fact that the world is stronger, and sometimes we need to put our heads down and play their game.

But there also comes a time when we need to say "enough is enough." If the officers who led Operation Cast Lead end up paying for it with their careers, or even if they do not pay but their appearances before a commission of inquiry become nightmarish, this will be the real crime.

All of us will bear responsibility for it, and all of us will pay the price during the next war.