Monday, November 10, 2008

Ask the lawyers

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has released another one of his old and used trial balloons in response to the renewed rocket fire from Gaza. "Let's fire back!", he says. Neither the resumption of fire nor Barak's response is a big surprise. The novelty this time is that he openly says that we need to check with AG Mazuz to assess the legality of our response. If this is the mentality in our government, it is not too out of the question to imagine the following news item:

Tel Aviv (AP). Israel's coastal cities continued to be pounded for the 15th straight day by Iranian Shihab 3 missiles, inflicting casualties and causing massive damage to the country's infrastructure and economy. Civilian life has come to a virtual standstill, as nearly two-thirds of the Israel's population is prevented from going to work or school, and instead cowering in bomb shelters. Israel's government has yet to order its vaunted military to respond, despite the protracted assualt on its civilian population. Currently, the defense minister, prime minister, and attorney general are engaged in protracted and inconclusive negotiations over the legality of firing missiles back at Iran or bombing infrastructure targets, since these are likely to lead to large civilian casualties. "I am looking into the issue, its not so simple as you people think", Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying. Attorney general Mani Mazuz has expressed concern that an Israeli decision to respond is likely to be criticized or stopped altogether by Israel High Court of Justice. This fear is not unfounded, as the high court is currently reviewing a request by a group, Concerned Citizens for Iran, to order the government not to fire missiles at Iran. Furthermore, the AG fears that any Israeli leader who orders such a response will be considered a war criminal under internation law, and would be subject to arrest upon landing in Britain or Belgium. Mazuz is not expected to issue an opinion for at least 2 months, pending an extensive legal review and consultation with Chief Justice Dorit Beinish. In the meantime, Barak is engaged in expedited negotiations with the treasury and contracting companies, in a bid the reinforce existing buildings in the Tel Aviv areas and thus help them withstand a sustained bombing attack. "We advise the citizens to have patience, we're working on the problem, and I promise you, there will definitely be a solution by next spring", said Barak.

This story is not too far from reality. It appears that Mr. Barak's statement is intended more for political purposes, in a transparent bid to appear tough and improve his Labor party's dismal standing in the public. Rest assured, nothing will come from his latest threats. The supposed power outages in Gaza are all very carefully choreographed by the Palestinians, and will surely pressure Israel into opening the passages to Gaza. Therefore, even the modest Israeli response of closing borders will be neutered of all effectiveness.