Israel's attorney general urges Netanyahu to open inquiry into Gaza war to fend off international courts

Israel's attorney general urges Netanyahu to open inquiry into Gaza war to fend off international courts
Israel's top legal advisor is urging the prime minister to establish a state-led commission into the Gaza war in a bid to fend off international investigations.
3 min read
07 June, 2024
Israel's Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara wrote a letter to the prime minister warning of 'significant damage' to the state from the international probes [Getty]

Israel's chief prosecutor has urged Benjamin Netanyahu to allow a state-led inquiry into the Gaza war as a move to fend off international investigations into Israel's military conduct and possible war crimes, including genocide.

Israel is facing two major investigations at top world courts which have thrust its actions against Palestinians in Gaza into the spotlight, including the order to cut electricity, fuel and water supplies into the enclave at the start of the war in October.

The government's legal adviser Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara wrote to Netanyahu this week stating that a state commission of inquiry is "the appropriate legal mechanism" for reviewing a national event such as the 'Swords of Iron War', as the Gaza war is known in Israel.

"In view of the urgency of dealing with the risks at the international level, our professional position is that the decision to establish a state commission of inquiry to investigate the events of the war should not be delayed and that it should be established early," Baharav-Miara wrote in the letter.

Netanyahu has been dodging attempts to establish an enquiry into the war, claiming that it is not suitable while the conflict is ongoing as it could hamper war objectives.

However, critics have accused the premier of attempting to evade responsibility for the failings of 7 October, when Hamas members launched a surprise-scale attack which killed some 1,100 and saw the group take around 250 captives.

Both the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are investigating Israel for possible war crimes in its eight-month onslaught in Gaza, which has killed over 36,000 Palestinians, including women and children, and caused widespread destruction to civilian infrastructure.

Last month, in an unprecedented move against a Western ally, the ICC's chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced that he was seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant on charges of murder, extermination, and starvation as a method of warfare.

Khan is also seeking warrants for three Hamas leaders in relation to the 7 October attack.

The naming of Netanyahu and Gallant was blasted by Israel and the United States. Israel has since launched a campaign against Khan, describing him as a "rogue judge" and calling the move "antisemitic".

The ICC said it was forced to move because Israel has not shown sufficient evidence of pursuing its own enquiry.

The court's mandate states it acts as 'a court of last resort' for the prosecution of serious international crimes whereby states are unable or unwilling to pursue their own case.

Baharav-Miara's letter to Netanyahu is an attempt to protect the state from the international probes and instead face trial by an Israeli judge.

"A state commission of inquiry is the best means of dealing with the current risks at the international legal level, which, if they materialize, could lead to significant damage to the interests of the state, and of course to the prime minister and security forces personally."

The letter suggests "the early publication of conclusions" of a state inquiry reviewing the same issues being examined by the international courts.

Israel has ignored repeated warnings from the ICJ to halt its operations in Gaza. Last month, the court ordered Israel to cease its invasion of the southern city of Rafah where more than one million Palestinians had been forced to flee over the course of the war.

Days after the ICJ issued the warning, an Israeli air strike hit a displacement camp west of Rafah, killing at least 45 civilians after the strike triggered a massive fire.