This data sheet reviews the outcome of military law enforcement system’s work in 2019–2020 regarding offenses committed by soldiers against Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The data presented herein is based on information provided to Yesh Din by the military, following various requests for information filed by the organization.
Analysis of the data indicates that while the military law enforcement system has indeed made some changes in recent years, those changes were primarily designed to enable the system to meet measurable objectives that create the appearance of a functioning law enforcement system. This appearance enables the system to show improved data and repel the criticism directed at it, while continuing to grant soldiers near total immunity from prosecution in cases of harming Palestinians.
In 2019-2020, the MAGC received a total of 273 complaints regarding soldier’s offences against Palestinians, 77 in 2019 and 196 in 2020. Yesh Din has identified a decrease in the number of complaints reported by the army compared to previous years. Of all complaints made in this period, 56 led to criminal investigations were launched, just one-fifth of the total number of complaints made during this time period, for which a decision on further action has been made. 72% (144) of the complaints for which a decision was made were closed without criminal investigation. Some were closed following a “factual inquiry” ordered by the MAGC.
2019-2020 figures show a continuous trend of decline in the annual number of criminal investigations launched against soldiers suspected of harming Palestinians. The number of criminal investigations opened regarding suspected offenses by soldiers against Palestinians declined by 26% compared to the average number of investigations opened in previous years (2017-2018). Yesh Din estimates that this is the result of a deliberate policy to raise the threshold for opening criminal investigations.
2019–2020 figures show how unlikely it is for a complaint made by a Palestinian against a soldier who harmed them or their property to result in prosecution: only 2% of all complaints made by Palestinians after being harmed by Israeli soldiers in 2019–2020 resulted in the prosecution of suspects. Against the backdrop of what appears to be a deliberate policy of reducing the number of investigations being opened and a very low rate of prosecution in the few investigations that are opened, the proportion of investigations that yielded sufficient evidence and culminated in the prosecution of suspects remains extremely low: as of June 2021, only 5 (7.2%) of all investigations opened in 2019–2020 regarding suspected cases of harming Palestinians resulted in indictments.
Analysis of the data indicates that no profound change has effectively taken place in the military system’s attitude towards criminal activity by soldiers against Palestinians. Contrary to the prevailing opinion in Israel, the military law enforcement system seeks to avoid investigating and prosecuting soldiers who harm Palestinians, thereby failing to provide Palestinians with protection from offenses by Israeli commanders and soldiers. In the rare cases where soldiers were convicted in harming Palestinians, they were sentenced to very lenient, at times ridiculous sentences in relation to the original offenses alleged in the complaints.
The International Criminal Court has the power to investigate war crimes only where the country in which the alleged crimes were committed fails to investigate such suspicions properly, due to lack of competence or will. The failure of the State of Israel to fulfill its basic duty of protecting Palestinians and enforcing the law against soldiers who have committed offences against Palestinians has effectively paved the way for the intervention of international mechanisms. This intervention is spearheaded by the anouncement of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the investigation of suspected war crimes allegedly committed by the State of Israel under the auspices of its control in the OPT.