In what some in the IDF are banking on as the key to preventing another Goldstone Report, the IDF this week wrapped up its first-ever training course for a new military post aimed at helping Israel minimize harm to civilians during future operations in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
Called “Population Coordination Officer,” the positions will be mostly held by reservists with the rank of captain or major. The week-long course was held at the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) school inside the Tzrifin Base near Rishon Lezion.
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According to the commander of the school, Lt.- Col. Hatib Mansour, if such officers had been deployed inside IDF battalions during Operation Cast Lead two years ago, the criticism against Israel might not have been as severe.
Following the operation, Israel came under unprecedented criticism, culminating in the United Nations-mandated Goldstone Report which accused Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“If there would have been officers like these in the battalions, I cannot say that there would not have been a Goldstone Report, but it would have spared some of the problems and minimized the damage to Israel afterwards,” he said.
The decision to establish the new post was made by COGAT, which will oversee the course, as well as the IDF Ground Forces Command, which needed to institute the organic change to the combat units.
During the course, the officers were taught how to assist battalion and brigade commanders in planning operations while taking into consideration the effect these operations will have on the civilian population.
“If a field commander needs to conquer a city or a neighborhood, our officer will be there to explain what the sensitive targets are in the area of operations and what to look out for,” Mansour explained.
“We are adding the humanitarian side, like which road needs to be kept open so civilians can evacuate if needed.”