Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit presented Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with the report that has been prepared in recent months on the State of Israel's position regarding Operation Protective Edge.
The report consists of Israel's counter-report to the UN fact-finding mission on Gaza, which is expected to produce an inevitably damning report of Israel on Monday.
"The report has been prepared over many months, since the operation ended, in cooperation with many bodies, especially the Justice Ministry, Foreign Ministry, IDF Judge Advocate General and others in both the IDF and the National Security Council," Mandelblit noted.
"The report presents the background to Operation Protective Edge as well as the goals of the operation and includes a number of chapters on the war crimes that were perpetrated by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations during the operation, terrorist threats to Israel's citizens and the State of Israel's efforts to defend its citizens, IDF conduct during the operation with emphasis on the various steps that were taken in accordance with the rules of international law, the steps that were taken to minimize injury to the civilian population, and the system that has been in place since the end of the operation to inquire into and investigate claims regarding seeming violations of the laws of war by IDF soldiers during Operation Protective Edge."
Netanyahu thanked Mandelblit for the report, and noted its crucial timing.
"I would like to thank you and the team that prepared this report," he began. "It is especially important because the State of Israel is under an unprecedented attack of delegitimization."
"This attack is not substantive, it is political," he continued. "Its goal is to blacken the State of Israel and we are preparing to respond."
"This is one response. We will act wherever necessary in order to deal with mendacious claims and anti-Israel initiatives."
'True picture' of Gaza war
Netanyahu then addressed the content of the report itself.
"I welcome this report, which presents the true picture of Operation Protective Edge," he said. "The report proves unequivocally that the actions carried out by the IDF and the security forces during the operation were in accordance with international law."
"They were done out of the need to defend the citizens of the state from a murderous terrorist organization that perpetrated a double war crime," he added. "It deliberately fired at civilians while intentionally hiding behind civilians."
"Hamas used schools, hospitals, mosques, UN facilities, and crowded civilian neighborhoods for military purposes," he continued. "From them it deliberately launched rockets and opened tunnels; in them it intentionally concealed arsenals, and operated command centers. The firing was a war crime."
"Deliberately hiding in civilian installations was a war crime," Netanyahu emphasized. "There are details here regarding the rockets, tunnels and the mortar rounds – all of the things that were done by Hamas."
The Prime Minister also noted that Israel's counter-report bears similarities to a report released earlier Sunday by a panel of high-ranking military officers from several Western countries. That report concluded that Israel far exceeded international standards regarding protecting civilian lives during the war.
"They determined explicitly that Israel operated during Operation Protective Edge in accordance with every international standard in order to avoid hitting innocents," Netanyahu said. "They are familiar with the international standard; they are familiar with it in their own militaries. They say that Israel acted beyond the international standard."
"The State of Israel and the IDF are indeed committed to the rules of international law, even as we fight against terrorist organizations that deliberately violate these rules," he continued. "I must say that our obligation does not stem from this or that report or this or that UN committee. It stems from the fact that Israel is a democracy and a moral country with values, which operates in accordance with international law."
Netanyahu then noted that Israel holds itself accountable.
"Neither do we shrink from investigating ourselves as necessary," he noted. "The inquiry and investigation mechanisms that exist in the State of Israel about claims regarding violations of the laws of war are among the world's best."
"Credible claims are checked as required," he added. "I compare this to what is due to be published soon, the inquiry report on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council."
"If there was ever a body that contradicted itself – here it is, because this body has already proven its hostility to Israel and lack of objectivity regarding Israel, and not just Israel," he continued. "This is an organization that has passed more decisions against Israel than against Syria, Iran and North Korea combined. This is an organization that decided to investigate Operation Protective Edge the day after the abduction and murder of the three youths."
"Whoever wants to know the truth should read this report on the Israeli position and read the senior generals' report," he concluded. "Whoever wants to automatically – and without foundation – blame Israel, let them waste their time with the UN Human Rights Council report."
"For our part, we will continue to defend our soldiers and they will continue to defend us."