Several Israeli officials voiced their objections on Monday after Spanish judge Fernando Andreu announced that he plans to continue a war-crimes probe into Israeli politicians and military officials involved in the 2002 assassination of arch-terrorist Salah Shehadeh. Relatives of Gaza Arabs killed in the strike turned to Andreu with a request to try Israel for carrying out the assassination despite the risk of civilian casualties.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would turn to the Spanish government with a request to prevent to probe.
Barak defended the IDF's decision to carry out the strike, saying, “No army is as moral as the Israel Defense Forces, and I do not doubt that the people involved in the assassination acted with a clear mind and a single goal, to protect the citizens of Israel.”
The Justice Ministry protested the Spanish case as well, and accused the Palestinian Authority Arabs who initiated proceedings in Spain of “a cynical move and an attempt to exploit the Spanish judicial system in order to advance a political agenda against Israel.”
Spain's government and judiciary will “do their utmost” to ensure that the attempted exploitation does not succeed, ministry officials said.
Dichter: Surprised at Spain
Former minister Avi Dichter, a suspect in the probe, said Monday, “I'm surprised that in a country like Spain, which suffered a Muslim terrorist attack in 2004, a judge finds it difficult to distinguish between a war on terror and what he terms 'crimes against humanity.' Everyone with brains in their head knows Shehadeh was a mass murderer, with the blood of hundreds of people on his hands.”
The death of innocent civilians is unfortunate, Dichter said, but the fault lies with terrorists, “who turn civilians into a human shield.”
In an interview with the Hebrew-language Yediot Aharonot, Dichter suggested that judge Andreu's motives were “not legal in nature,” adding, “I can't imagine a similar investigation into Americans, Britons, or even Spanish citizens, who have played a role in fighting terrorism worldwide.” He called on the Israeli government to fight international probes of its senior staffers, saying “We must not allow this arena to be dominated by those who seek to censure Israel.”
However, Dichter said he was not overly concerned regarding the probe, despite the fact that Andreu could issue an arrest warrant for him that would be valid throughout the European Union. “I can buy Belgian chocolate here and watch Spanish soccer games on television,” he said.
Almog: Who are They to Judge?
Dichter's fellow suspect, Major-General (res.) Doron Almog, expressed outrage at the ruling. “What is Spain to get involved in an internal affair? What moral high ground do they have? What superior justice do they have? Who gave them the right to judge between us and the Palestinians, or to decide what's legal and what isn't?”
Both Almog and Dichter warned that similar cases were likely to follow the Spanish case. Other EU nations, including Britain, allow court cases involving foreign nationals on foreign soil.