Israeli leaders responded Thursday to a Spanish court's decision to probe former IAF commander Dan Halutz, former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and five other senior Israeli officials involved in the decision to assassinate senior Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh in 2002. “We will protect our people from these accusations,” assured Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Barak strongly criticized the probe, saying, “Whoever calls taking out a terrorist 'a crime against humanity' lives in an upside-down world.” The court suggested that those who killed Shehadeh were guilty of a crime against humanity due to the civilian casualties in the operation.
Israel will do “whatever necessary” to protect IDF soldiers and commanders from prosecution in international courts, Barak continued. The commanders who planned the Shehadeh assassination “acted properly, in the name of the state of Israel,” he said, referring to the judge who ordered the probe as “delusional.”
Barak has also proposed that the state guarantee full legal backing to soldiers who face charges over the recent Cast Lead operation in Gaza.
Ben-Eliezer: No Regrets
Minister of National Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, one of the seven senior Israeli officials named in the probe, said Thursday that he did not regret his role in the Shehadeh assassination. “I am not sorry for my decision [to approve the assassination—ed.]. Salah Shehadeh was a Hamas terrorist, an arch-murderer whose hands were dripping with the blood of one hundred Israelis; [he] carried out the worst attacks against our citizens,” he said.
“I'll put it simply: If we had not hit him, he would have continued to carry out terrorist attacks and kill more Israelis,” Ben-Eliezer added.
The court's decision to probe the incident was, “absurd, and more than that, outrageous,” he said. “Terrorist organizations use the free world's courts, they use the systems put in place by democratic states, to sue a country fighting terrorism.
"All the self-righteous and those who preach to us would do better to file complaints against members of Hamas, over their murder and terrorism against Israel,” he concluded.
Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu called the probe “outrageous and absurd.” Israel must support anyone facing international sanctions, he said, adding, “There is no war more justified or moral than the war we are fighting.”
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said she had instructed her ministry's officials to get the probe shut down. Israel will defend all security personnel accused of crimes for acting in Israel's defense, she said.
Livni plans to meet with Spanish diplomats to discuss the issue.
Yaakov Katz (Ketzeleh), head of the National Union, accused judge Fernando Andreu of anti-Semitism. “Spanish anti-Semitism has not changed from when King Fernando expelled Jews in 1492 to Judge Fernando's decision on the Shehadeh case in 2009,” he declared.