The Israel Defense Forces’ policy of choosing enemy targets is consistent with international law and “largely track those of the U.S. military,” say two prominent legal experts, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.
Michael Schmitt and John Merriam, both of whom lecture on armed conflict at the U.S. Naval War College, wrote a report on the subject.
They said that “the IDF invited us to Israel to examine its targeting practices … We visited an operational IDF headquarters (the Gaza Division) and observed its targeting cells; reviewed the targeting procedures of both ground and air forces … visited a Hamas attack tunnel; examined combat footage …and interviewed IDF officers — both legal advisers and operators.”
Schmitt, a widely respected scholar who also holds positions at NATO and Harvard, said that the IDF’s targeting practices are “broadly within the mainstream of contemporary state practice, but the nuances … can only be understood” within the context of an “Israeli population [which] views itself as ‘under siege’ — Israel is surrounded by foes” who regularly launch rockets at Israeli populations centers.
Regarding the question of “collateral damage,” or civilian casualties, Schmitt said that “the destruction of rockets and rocket-launching infrastructure (often located in civilian houses to deter Israeli attack) has a high degree of ‘anticipated military advantage,’ such that it may justify (from the IDF’s standpoint) levels of collateral damage that may strike outside observers as potentially excessive.”
The report did not address specific incidents in the fighting last summer, but it will presumably strengthen Israel’s case in justifying its conduct of the war.
Israeli officials declined to comment on the report.