22/10/2009 The chair of the International Institute for Criminal Investigation on Thursday morning warned that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s aspiration to change the laws of war is unrealistic, and said the initiative was “almost an admission” Israel had violated international law during Operation Cast Lead.
Netanyahu directed the relevant ministries on Tuesday to look into ways of launching an international initiative to change the laws of war to deal with the modern-day scourge of terrorism. This new initiative comes fast on the heels of the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of war crimes for its military operation in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.
“It’s one thing to claim that [the rules of war] should change, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to violate them until they’ve changed,” said William Schabas, professor of human rights law and the author of twenty-one books dealing with international human rights law, in an interview with Army Radio.
“I think the fact that Netanyahu says he wants to change the laws of war is almost an admission that Israel violated them,” Schabas claimed.
The world-renowned law professor went on to predict it was very unlikely the world would support the Israeli prime minister’s initiative. It is not realistic to say that the Geneva Conventions, which were intended to protect the lives of civilians in a military conflict, do not allow a state to handle terror threats, he said.
When Israel harmed civilians during Operation Cast Lead it broke laws based on ancient moral values, said Schabas.
One cannot change the rules by defining your enemy as cruel and vicious, Schabas stressed, adding, if you break the law, you are behaving like the terrorists against whom you are fighting.
Schabas, a supporter of the Goldstone Commission’s report, also said that the international community would probably not accept an Israeli army probe into the alleged war crimes. However, a committee of inquiry established by the government would be accepted, he assessed.
At a meeting of the Israeli security cabinet that focused on the Goldstone report and its ramifications on Tuesday, Netanyahu had said Israel’s challenge was “to delegitimize the continuous attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel.”
“In Lebanon, in Gaza and in other places, weapons are being piled up around us with the sole aim of firing them at the citizens of the State of Israel,” he claimed. “I want to make it clear to everyone: No one will undermine our ability and right to defend our children, our citizens and our communities.”