IDF Former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz on Gaza War: ‘Next Time Will be Worse’
Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, at a conference regarding international law and warfare on Monday, said that he expects Israel’s next war against terror organizations in either Lebanon or Gaza to be worse than last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.
Gantz also addressed the issue of innocent civilians deaths in urban warfare against terrorist organizations, particularly the civilian casualties in Protective Edge.
Gantz noted that, “unfortunately, both in Gaza and in Lebanon, civilians paid the price of war.” He added that,”Next time it will be worse – because Israel has to deal constantly with the moral dilemma,” of minimizing civilian casualties, “but at the same time with the need to protect itself,” from terrorists who have embedded themselves among civilians.
Commenting on Hezbollah and Hamas’ use of human shields in conflict, Gantz said that, “Both in Gaza and in Lebanon the enemy operated from within the civilian population,” adding that, “they have full villages that have been converted into rocket storehouses. Their living rooms are rocket rooms. I don’t have a rocket room in my house. How can we known the difference? How careful can we be?”
In light of those facts, Gantz commented on the inadequacy of international law, as it is being interpreted, to properly deal with such a situation. Gantz said, “our strategic and moral obligations are to remember that the weaker side isn’t always the just side.”
Commenting on the exploitation by terrorist groups of international law, he said, “Don’t tell me this is a kindergarten when I know that this is a rocket room. Don’t tell me this is a mosque when I know it is a store house for rockets.” He added that, “in the place of swimming pools, they have missile pools.”
Israel, meanwhile, behaves differently, he said. “I am not familiar with even a single synagogue in Israel that is used as a meeting place for terrorists or as a rocket, missile or ammunition storehouse.”
He added that he made a point of personally visiting the families of those Israelis who lost loved ones in last summer’s war, and noted that they “know that we did all in our power to exercise extreme caution in the case of this dilemma,” where the army had to fight Hamas entrenched among a civilian population. He said they knew this because, “this is how they raised their children, who were on the ground at the time of the Operation.”
Because of the impossible strategic situation posed by Hamas and Hezbollah’s exploitation of the laws of war and the civilian population, Gantz spoke of the need to change the laws of war and what constitutes a war crime under such laws.
Gantz said, “Think back to the time when the laws of war were meant to limit bad people. Today, those who do not obey those laws do not really care. But they will use the laws against those that do care about them.”
He added, “We need to update the laws in order to allow us to protect democracy, human life, and humanitarian ethics, because the other side doesn’t care about these things at all.”
Yet, despite this abuse and exploitation of the laws of war by terrorist organizations, Gantz said, “we will continue to act in accordance with them.”
Gantz then commented on the internal investigations being carried out by the IDF into the conduct of its soldiers in Protective Edge. “In Gaza and also in Lebanon, we are investigating ourselves, both from the strategic and the legal point of view.”
According to Gantz, “Over 500 incidents have been investigated, and some of them led to soldiers being brought before military tribunals.” The decision to investigate these incidents, said Gantz, was not motivated by the fact that the “international community put pressure on us, but because we care to improve ourselves.”
Gantz stressed that, “It is important to us that additional countries will respect human rights and international law,” noting that “the State of Israel is a state of laws and the IDF is an organization that operates in accordance with international law.”