Israel Agrees to Forego Use of White Phosphorus… Sorta
Yesh Din and other Israeli human rights NGOs sued the IDF over its use of white phosphorus during Operation Cast Lead and in similar conflicts. It is deemed by many as a chemical weapon, especially when used as the IDF does. It is not allowed to be used in or near civilian populations, which is precisely how Israel uses it. It also dropped the napalm-like substance directly on civilians targets causing grievous injuries. Scores of Gazans died or were maimed by the toxic, highly flammable material during the 2009 war. The only time it’s legal to use it in combat is to provide smokescreen cover for combat operations. While the IDF maintains that was what it did, the evidence in the form of civilian casualties refutes that.
Recently, facing a difficult hearing before what would likely have been a skeptical Supreme Court, the IDF announced it would stop using white phosphorus in populated areas. So far so good. But as in every matter concerning Israel’s army, the devil is in the details:
The IDF has decided “to avoid the use in built-up areas of artillery shells containing white phosphorus, with two narrow exceptions,” the state said in an announcement to the court.
Yuval Roitman, who represented the state in the petition, added: This “has been decided in the IDF as a matter of policy … even though this is not a commitment in a legal sense.” The state’s decision emphasizes that while this is current IDF policy it could change in the future.
The State wants to appear to have renounced use of white phosphorus while not really doing so. Note those “two narrow exceptions.” I’m trying to ascertain what they are. They have been conveniently omitted from any court filings or documents. But I’m guessing they may be wide enough to drive a Mack truck through. Also note the State affirms that the policy is only temporary and may be changed at the discretion of the army itself. Further, the army makes a big deal out of the fact that while this is a change of policy, it isn’t a legally binding agreement forced upon it. This is the equivalent of the defendant who cops a plea without an admission of guilt.