Gaza Protective Edge

Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. (ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock)

Israel’s wartime policies fall well within the constraints of international law and are even worthy of emulation, according to two new studies by leading American experts.

The IDF’s fighting policy during wartime falls within the parameters of international law and US military practices, according to two new academic papers by top experts in military law. Michael Schmitt and John Merriam visited Israel during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza to study Israel’s targeting methods and specific policies on the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC).

The researchers note in a summary posted to the Just Security blog that Israel had been hesitant to share its targeting methods and LOAC positions lest it “provide an operational advantage to its adversaries and be exploited by often-critical interlocutors among states and in the international human rights community.” Nevertheless, the IDF invited them to examine Israel’s ground and air targeting procedures; to study in-depth the Military Advocate General’s Corps; to speak with IDF officers, including legal officers; to review combat footage and even to visit a Hamas terror tunnel.

“Israeli targeting practices and positions on the LOAC are broadly within the mainstream of contemporary state practice,” the legal experts stated, noting two factors that influence the specifics of Israeli policy. The first is the Israeli perception of being “under siege,” as Hamas and Hezbollah rockets are capable of hitting virtually anywhere in the country. The second is the “acute casualty aversion in Israeli society” and the fear of IDF soldiers being kidnapped in order to exert pressure on Israel.

violence in israel

Minister of Education Shay Piron reading to Israeli children in a bomb shelter in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. (Edi Israel/Flash90)

“Broadly speaking, we concluded that IDF positions on targeting law largely track those of the United States military. Moreover, even when they differ, the Israeli approach remains within the ambit of generally acceptable state practice. The IDF is served by a corps of highly competent and well-trained legal advisers who operate with a remarkable degree of autonomy, and its operations are subject to extensive judicial monitoring. While there are certainly Israeli legal positions that may be contentious, we found that their approach to targeting is consistent with the law and, in many cases, worthy of emulation,” they concluded.

Michael Schmitt is director of the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the US Naval War College. John Merriam is a US Army judge advocate and serves as the associate director of the Stockton Center at the US Naval War College. Their first paper, The Tyranny of Context: Israeli Targeting Practices in Legal Perspective, will appear in the forthcoming University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law. The second, Israeli Targeting: A Legal Appraisal, will be published in the Autumn 2015 Naval War College Review.

By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel

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