The Foreign Ministry said that it is reviewing its policy
toward the International Red Cross (IRC) in light of that
organization's characterization last week of settlements as
"war crimes." The IRC is involved in humanitarian activities
in the territories for which it needs Israeli cooperation
and government approval. These recent comments may impair
the ability of the IRC to carry out these tasks as an
impartial, humanitarian organization.
Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker met with Rene
Kosirnik, head of the IRC delegation in Tel Aviv, to protest
his comments and inform him that Israel's relations with the
IRC are -- as a result of his comments -- under review.
Kosirnik, at a press conference last week, said: "The
transfer, the installation of population of the occupying
power into the occupied territories, is considered as an
illegal move and qualified as a grave breach [of the Fourth
Geneva Convention]. It's a grave breach, formally speaking,
but grave breaches are equal in principle to war crimes."
Baker said that this comment, made at such a sensitive time,
is tantamount to the IRC taking a political side. Baker said
that if the IRC has criticisms there are other ways to voice
them than at a press conference, enabling the Palestinians
to use these statements in their ongoing battle with
A spokesman for the IRC said that Kosirnik's comments were
in answer to a legal question and not meant as a political
characterization. He added that Kosirnik also said at the
press conference that shooting civilians, "including
settlers," constitutes a war crime, as does shooting from
populated areas which will necessarily draw counterfire.
The US State Department also criticized the IRC after the
statement last week, saying: "We don't think this comment is
helpful at this particularly volatile time."