The IDF's Commitment to the International Laws of War Is Not a Disadvantage

(Israel Hayom) Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser - Some are claiming that the specter of prosecution and trial hampers the freedom of action of the IDF, as well as its ability to function when faced with complex operational challenges. This claim is mainly voiced in the context of the IDF's war on terrorist organizations, which themselves flagrantly violate the rules of war, intentionally attacking civilians and hiding behind human shields. It is true that fighting armed terrorist organizations is much more complicated than fighting other armies, and that applying international law's rules of war demands some creative thinking. This is mostly because the other side does not see itself as obligated to international law and tries to leverage the asymmetry of the two sides' commitment to it to improve its ability to achieve its goals. The IDF uses four main principles behind the laws of war in its operations: The principle of necessity - military force is exercised only when there is a military purpose in doing so whose focus is protecting the security of the country and its citizens and defeating the enemy. The principle of humanity - avoiding unnecessary suffering. The principle of distinction - an assault distinguishes between military targets and soldiers and civilians and civilian objects. The principle of proportionality - it is acknowledged that assaults on military targets could cause collateral damage to civilians but it seeks to ensure that the collateral damage is not excessive in relation to the military advantage resulting from the action. The IDF is careful to uphold these principles, not only because doing so anchors its ability to defend itself in the International Criminal Court, but because the laws of war align with our own moral codes. It could be argued that in a specific situation, not adhering to the laws of war could lead to greater success and reduce the danger to Israel in the short term, but the cost of doing so would be insufferably high. It would harm uninvolved persons, as well as our ability as a people to face ourselves. The moral advantage actually increases Israel's power in the long run. The writer, who headed the Research and Assessment Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is a Senior Project Director at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

2022-01-17 00:00:00

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