According to several news reports today, the Israeli government is planning to approve a bill on Sunday that will grant legal aid and other forms of support to Israeli Defense Forces officers who may be charged with war crimes for the recent actions in Gaza.
According to Ha'aretz:
The bill, titled "strengthening the IDF's hand after Operation Cast Lead", was put forward by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and coordinated by the Ministry or Defense, Ministry of Justice and State Prosecutor. There is growing concern at the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Justice that Israeli officers will be singled out in a wave of suits for alleged human rights violations.
According to Le Monde, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the Israeli army has warned officers thinking about traveling to Europe against the risks of being the subjects of international arrest warrants. And there are indications that such concerns could indeed be valid: The UN special rapporteur for human rights, Richard Falk, is quoted in other reports as saying that there is evidence that war crimes were committed, including the failure to allow civilians to leave the war zone:
"To lock people into a war zone is something that evokes the worst kind of international memories of the Warsaw Ghetto, and sieges that occur unintentionally during a period of wartime," Falk, who is Jewish, said, referring to the starvation and murder of Warsaw's Jews by Nazi Germany in World War Two.
Falk also did not accept Israeli justifications for their actions:
Falk, who was denied entry to Israel two weeks before the assault started on Dec. 27, dismissed Israel's argument that the assault was for self-defense in the light of rocket attacks aimed at Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip.
"In my view the UN charter, and international law, does not give Israel the legal foundation for claiming self-defense," he said. Israel had not restricted fighting to areas where the rockets came from and had refused to negotiate with Hamas, preventing a diplomatic solution, Falk said.
Update: CNN reports that the Israeli government did indeed pass the legal defense measure on Sunday. In addition, CNN says: A team of legal experts, led by Justice Minister Daniel Friedman, will defend Israel's military operation in Gaza, according to Olmert. Friedman and international law experts will formulate answers to possible questions regarding the activity of the Israel Defense Forces that might arise, he said.
The Taliban rules. A harrowing article in Sunday's New York Times, about the murderous hold the Taliban has on Pakistan's Swat Valley, underscores the challenges faced by Obama's strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan. This and other reports make it clear that the Pakistan government has no intention of seriously battling Islamic fundamentalist extremism. Until that changes, it is hard to imagine what American boots on the ground are going to be able to do.