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May 28, 2019 1:38 pm

Israel ‘on the Vanguard’ in Dealing With Legal Challenges of Warfare, US Official Says

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

IDF soldiers gather next to armored vehicles near the Israel-Gaza Strip border, March 27, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

Israel is “on the vanguard” when it comes to dealing with legal challenges that arise from warfare, an American official said on Tuesday.

Addressing the 3rd IDF International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict in Herzliya, Paul C. Ney Jr. — the US Department of Defense’s general counsel — stated that dialogue about the law of war must “be led by states, like Israel and others represented here, that are deeply committed to the rule of law and will adhere in good faith to their legal obligations.”

“A state that has no intention of complying with its obligations will not have the desire that Israel and the United States and others have to ensure that the law is militarily practical and strengthens humanitarian protections,” he added.

“The law of war’s fundamental distinction between privileged military forces and unprivileged combatants is notably under-recognized in current debates,” Ney asserted. “We see this lack of recognition in reports or resolutions that portray the current condition of compliance with the law of war in sweeping, dismal terms. These reports fail to recognize that many states, like Israel and the United States, have extensive, robust programs of law of war implementation and enforcement.”

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Referring to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ney noted, “Unfortunately, I believe that Israel’s experience with the ICC is similar to the US experience. Like the United States, Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute. Like the United States, Israel possesses a robust civil and military justice system. As with the United States, the ICC has ignored the principle of consent to jurisdiction and engaged in an illegitimate effort to review Israeli actions. No matter the ICC’s actions, as Ambassador [John] Bolton has stated, ‘The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel.’”

Ney continued: “It might be politically inconvenient for some, maybe many, to acknowledge that the US military and the IDF care profoundly about the law of war and in fact have strong systems for implementation and enforcement of the law of war. These efforts, which are one of the principal criteria distinguishing lawful combatants from unprivileged combatants, must be recognized in the application of the law of war.”

According to the IDF, more than 150 legal experts from over 20 countries were attending the three-day conference, which opened on Tuesday.

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