"I told the Chief of Staff: Now the real war begins"

The Chief Military Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit, attended the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, and spoke of the current situation in which the IDF (Zahal) is fighting on legal and media fronts, along with the military one. “Anyone who doesn’t understand this will not be victorious.”

Date: 20/02/2011, 1:27 PM     Author: Amnon Direktor

The annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) took place on Tuesday (Feb. 1) discussing the theme of “Security in the 21st Century: Molding a National Security Policy.” IDF (Zahal) Chief Military Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit, spoke at the conference about the legal and constitutional perspectives in shaping national security policies.

Maj. Gen. Mandelblit mentioned that the “most significant and growing aspect I’ve been exposed to during the past few years, is that we have found ourselves (Israel) in the center of an extremely sophisticated global world-wide legal campaign, run for the sole purpose of truly influencing the security status of the State of Israel, and maybe even its existence.”

The Military Advocate General ruled that dealing with this new front requires complicated coping methods. “The security establishment is dealing with a legal campaign in an international arena, and today the issue at hand is distinguishing military law and human rights law, for example the Goldstone report. We’ve been discussing for years that of a military front serving a political purpose, and in the last few years two more essential fronts were added – the media front and the legal front. With the completion of Operation Cast Lead, I told the Chief of the General Staff – now the real war begins. I did not even think how difficult this conflict was going to be,” said the Military Advocate General.

Ignored the terror preceding Operation Cast Lead

According to Maj. Gen. Mandelblit, the method for taking action against Israel during Operation Cast Lead was to doubt the legitimacy of using certain force, for example, the use of phosphorus- and through that, to doubt the legitimacy of the IDF (Zahal) in general. “They question how we got to the Operation, and why we started fighting, but nobody remembers that eight years ago rockets were fired at us. This may lead to the dangerous cycle of questioning the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel by the way it is currently being perceived. This affects the world and especially the Western world. The conflicts of World War I don’t exist anymore. Today’s conflicts are different and introduce a difficult challenge in many respects,” says the Military Advocate General.

Maj. Gen. Mandelblit adds that, “Terror organizations take advantage of our commitment to the international court in order to benefit. Legal bodies grew immensely in power during the past few years, and this is the reality.” According to him, reports from human rights organizations are becoming more relevant, with the most significant example being the Goldstone Report. “At the end of the day, I need to provide the legal tools to the IDF (Zahal) commander in order to win the war,” notes the Military Advocate General.

Explaining Ourselves Legally

Regarding the Goldstone Report, Maj. Gen. Mandelblit states that in his opinion, “It was very sneaky, it took a while to understand.” According to him, “Most of the report recounted events. The conclusion drawn from the Goldstone Report, conversely to other reports, was that the goal of the senior defense leadership was a policy intended to punish, humiliate, instill terror among civilians in Gaza, in order to create deterrence in Judea and Samaria not to learn from Gaza to elect Hamas.”

The Military Advocate General concluded that, “We must work on explaining ourselves legally. We must explain that we are in a situation identical to that of our allies. We must reveal the truth behind these reports; show that they are indirect and false. We are working today to increase the importance of the military legal system.”