Two of the world’s leading experts on the laws of armed conflict have, in the wake of last year’s Gaza war, conducted a thorough survey of the Israel Defense Force’s targeting policies and concluded that the Israeli army does not as a matter of policy commit war crimes.
Traditionally, the IDF has been closed regarding its operational procedures for fear that Israel’s antagonists could exploit that information in their ongoing quest to smear the Jewish state.
But the immense condemnation following the Summer 2014 conflict prompted the IDF to invite American military legal experts Michael Schmitt and John Merriam to investigate whether or not the accusations of wrong-doing were valid.
Both Schmitt and Merriam lecture on the law of armed conflict at the US Naval War College, and Schmitt also advises on the topic at NATO, Harvard and Exeter.
Given the high positions both men hold and the high regard in which they are held, the conclusions of their survey, a summary of which was posted to the blog Just Security, are expected to influence legal proceedings against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
And that is likely to play in Israel’s favor.
The survey took a sympathetic, if not uncritical, look at Israel’s “siege mentality” and the various other factors that create the “specific operational and strategic environment in which the IDF must fight.”
And while Israel’s aggressiveness in some scenarios and the resulting collateral damage might be viewed by some as excessive and contentious, the authors determined that Israeli military policy and practice fell within legally acceptable boundaries.
“While there are certainly Israeli legal positions that may be contentious, we found that their approach to targeting is consistent with the law and, in many cases, worthy of emulation,” read the summary’s concluding sentence.