Missing the point

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By Hugo Foster

Thinking back over the multitude of domestic corruption investigations launched against Israeli leaders in recent years, Israeli democracy would appear to be in a healthy state. Leaders are at least held accountable for their actions, something which can’t be said for most of Israel’s neighbours. True, many Israeli leaders are inclined towards cross-border military adventures, but then they tend to find their actions scrutinised heavily by subsequent investigations. This week saw the publication of the final Winograd Commission report into government decision-making during the so-called Second Lebanon War, Israel’s military campaign against Hizbullah in July 2006. Though the report is widely thought to have exonerated Prime Minister Olmert, it has come close to derailing the government coalition, noting serious failings by political and military leaders before and during a war which delivered little logistical gain for Israel and much credibility on the Arab street for Hizbullah.

It
is, however, extremely unfortunate that the political impetus behind
the commission essentially misses the point. Whilst it makes sense that
any country would seek to investigate the strategic value and execution
of its military endeavours, the report shamefully overlooks the
systematic human rights violations committed throughout the campaign.
Amongst other conditions, international law demands that any military
distinguishes between civilian and military targets during combat,
something which Israel evidently failed to do during its indiscriminate
bombing of Beirut. As Amnesty International's response to the commission
argues, the real crime for which Israel’s leaders should be held
accountable for is the killing of 1,900 Lebanese, the vast majority of
whom were civilians.