A Fair Judge for Israel is Needed for Hamas War in Gaza

While a United Nations panel stages a guilt-before-the-evidence probe of Israel’s conduct in last summer’s Gaza war, a task force of retired U.S. generals is warning American commanders never to do what Israel did — pull their punches.

The biggest lesson five former flag officers of the Army, Marines and Air Force took from their study of the 50-day conflict was that, as it struggled to observe the laws of war, Israel limited its aims to temporarily defanging rather than defeating its enemy.

As a result, Hamas lived to fight another day, while using skilled public relations to throw blame on Israel for its own war crimes. Concluded the task force: The U.S. military should prepare to wage — and win — similar close-quarter urban battles against equally conniving enemies.

Helpfully, the panel’s recommendations for America rest, first, on conclusions about who committed what offense during the war.

There, the judgment was clear: After provoking war with indiscriminate rocket attacks, Hamas placed Palestinian civilians in Israel’s defensive line of fire, hoping for casualties that the terror group could present to the world as atrocities.

Meanwhile, the task force found, “Israel sought to minimize both its own casualties — military and civilian — and to limit the collateral damage to Gaza.”

The panel noted that Israel chose to use “extraordinary and innovative methods to mitigate civilian risk,” including using low-powered explosives and warning civilians to evacuate danger zones.

Regardless, when many in the international community saw the death toll — 66 soldiers and six civilians killed in Israel and more than 2,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza — the UN Human Rights Commission ordered a probe of “the crimes perpetrated” by Israel. No surprise. The commission relentlessly targets the Jewish state.

Also true to form, the commission named a profoundly anti-Israel international law professor to head the inquiry. He has since been replaced by former acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Mary McGowan-Davis.

Some hope she’ll give Israel a fairer shake. The generals’ task force, which was sponsored by the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, has a better idea: Let commanders from NATO and the coalition that fought in Afghanistan render judgment on the tactics employed by Israel and Hamas.

That’ll be the day.

Originally appeared in Daily News on March 16, 2015.