It was an international incident, which caused a terrible rift with the United States, Israel’s greatest ally. In the midst of a war to defend itself, Israel’s army had made a horrific error and killed innocents. To stave off the storm, Israel not only apologized and offered compensation to the families, it also began a serious internal investigation.
The investigation was headed by a senior member of the Israeli JAG, and later a Supreme Court Justice. Everyone involved – from the army chiefs to the junior officers – were questioned. Charges of criminal negligence were brought against one officer and seriously entertained. In the end, the judge concluded on the basis of the evidence he reviewed, that the bombing was indeed a regrettable error, not born of malice.
The incident in question is not one of the many controversial incidents of Protective edge, but Israel’s mistaken attack on the USS Liberty during the Six Day War. The investigation, though no rubber stamp, convinced no-one already presumed to assume Israel’s guilt. If Israel had set up an independent commission of inquiry (of the kind that investigated the Yom Kippur War and Sabra and Shatila), the results would have been the same.
Israel should expect nothing different from its present investigations into the IDF’s conduct in Protective Edge. It does not matter how professional and unbiased they are, nothing short of an automatic and unequivocal guilty verdict will satisfy the Human Rights Community, much like many veterans of the Liberty, who wish for a full Congressional investigation – but with only one possible outcome (even though all the principals are dead now).
The only result that can come from this investigation is to further weaken the IDF’s resolve, focusing excessively on legal niceties to the neglect of battlefield prowess and the seeking of victory. It is becoming less an army and more a trigger-shy police force with big guns it is afraid to use.
An army relies on trust – the army expects soldiers and commanders to risk their lives to achieve the objective; they in turn expect the leadership to have their back. This wholesale investigation campaign comes very close to being a betrayal.