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Anne Bayefsky

New Levels of Low: Obama's "Advice" to Israel on how to Conduct an Investigation is an Extraordinary Insult

Sunday, June 6, 2010

This article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared on

In a first from a US president, Barack Obama has now lectured Israel how it must conduct an investigation into actions taken by the IDF to defend the Jewish state. In response to a question from CNN's Larry King on June 3 about the blockade-busting endeavor by Turkish-backed extremists, Obama said: "We are calling for an effective investigation of everything that happened. I think the Israelis are going to agree to that an investigation of international standards because they recognize that this can't be good for Israel's long-term security."

The statement marks a new low in the president's moves impairing US-Israel relations.

Israel is a fully-free democratic society with an unparalleled, independent and accessible judicial system fully governed by the rule of law. The idea that it needs to be told by the president how to conduct an investigation into military operations taken in self-defense is an extraordinary insult. How dare the president suggest that its standards are not good enough?

The Israeli Supreme Court makes generous use far more than the US Supreme Court of decisions of national courts of other states, regional human rights courts, as well as international human rights treaties. The independent judiciary, to the frequent consternation of many political actors, is far more involved in oversight of the government and the military than is the judiciary in the US, where the political questions doctrine and other barriers frequently preclude judicial oversight.

Furthermore, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made clear, defending the maritime blockade of Hamas-run Gaza and preventing the creation of an Iranian Mediterranean port are good for Israel's long-term security. They are also good for American security, given that Israel is seeking to defeat the same rejectionist Islamic forces that threaten America and democracy more generally.

The president's attempt at gross interference in Israeli sovereignty started with his rush to judgment last Monday, when he permitted a unanimous UN Security Council presidential statement calling for "a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards."

Predictably, within 24 hours that call was duly translated by the UN Human Rights Council into a call for an international investigation of what it had already condemned as "the outrageous attack by the Israeli forces."

The HRC is now engaged, in other words, in an effort to mimic the libelous Goldstone Report.

Though the US finally voted against the HRC resolution (after first suggesting it was open to a decision reproducing the Security Council statement), by that point the damage done by the president leaping on the Security Council bandwagon had been done. Moreover, since the Obama administration decided to join the HRC and to pay for it, American taxpayers will cover 22 percent of the $530,000 estimated costs of the HRC-sponsored investigation.

The president's assault on the credibility of the Israeli democratic system is coming from all sides of his administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated on June 1 that international participants might be necessary to bolster the legitimacy of an Israeli probe. Israelis won't do. In her words, the US wants "a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation... We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation..."

Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley made the insult even more grotesque the goal wasn't a credible probe in objective terms, it was credible in the eyes of the UN mob. On June 2 he said that Israel must produce "an investigation that is broadly viewed as credible by the international community."

Just a week ago, the Obama administration made another move to undermine Israel's stature by way of international intervention. It undertook in writing at the conclusion of the Nuclear Nonproliferation conference to co-sponsor a 2012 international meeting having the goal of removing Israel's nuclear deterrence capacity without concomitant security guarantees having been realized. This increasingly brazen intimidation is not going to evaporate if Israel decides to subject itself to any kind of international oversight of its military forces, political decision-makers or judicial authorities.

Nor, of course, would anything satisfy UN players short of a UN team which was handpicked to assure a predetermined outcome finding Israel guilty on all counts. Israel should, therefore, strongly reject President Obama's latest endeavor to erode its sovereignty and well-being.