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Israel seeks to keep the Goldstone report away from the agenda of the General Assembly

January 24, 2014 at 1:23 pm

By Asa’ad Telhami

Israel is continuing with its diplomatic efforts to remove the Goldstone Report from the agenda of the UN General Assembly. The report gives details of the suspected war crimes committed during the Israeli invasion of Gaza just over a year ago. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, discussed this issue in meetings with his counterparts from a number of European countries while in Brussels earlier this week. Meanwhile, officials from his ministry have issued instructions to Israel’s ambassadors around the world, particularly in Europe, to continue working with their host governments in order to convince them to reject the draft resolution submitted by Arab states to the General Assembly. The resolution calls on Israel and the Palestinians to carry out independent and credible investigations into human rights violations during the invasion; such investigations are a recommendation of the Goldstone Report.

According to press reports, Israel has intensified its efforts in recent days “to abort” the draft resolution that will be presented to the UN General Assembly on Friday; the Israeli government regards the draft resolution to be “uncomfortable for Israel”.

However, if the draft is discussed by the General Assembly and the resolution is passed, it will call on Israel to conduct an independent investigation into the practices of its armed forces in the Gaza Strip last year. At the same time, the Palestinians will be told that they should conduct “independent investigations that meet international standards in all that matters in relation to serious violations of international humanitarian law in order to reach the truth”.

In practical terms, the draft gives both the Israelis and the Palestinians five more months for the completion of internal investigation. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will retain the option to be able to submit the issue to the Security Council, depending on the results of the investigations. Israeli forums claim that the degree of “moderation” in the Arab draft document can be put down to the desire of Arab countries to convince European and African countries to support their request for the Goldstone Report to be transferred to the Security Council if Israel does not conduct the required investigation. It is notable that the Arab countries appreciate that at least three countries, all permanent members of the Security Council (the US, Britain and France), oppose having any discussion of the report in the Security Council or taking it to the International Tribunal in The Hague.

However, despite the belief in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the Arab draft is “relatively moderate”, Israel is still demanding that countries oppose it, on the pretext that further examination of the Goldstone Report will make it even more difficult to resume the political process between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel also claims that it has already conducted reliable investigations without the need for a UN resolution, “while the Palestinians did not really attempt any investigation and are in any case incapable of conducting serious investigations”. Ovitar Munawar, deputy undersecretary at the Foreign Ministry, said that Israel is trying to change the voting pattern that resulted in the Goldstone Report being adopted by the UN in November last year. The aim, said Mr. Munawar, is to remove any legitimacy from the Report.

In the meantime, the Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, joined the diplomatic fray when he tried to “de-legitimise” the report and attacked its author, South African Judge Richard Goldstone, during a meeting with the heads of accredited foreign missions in Israel. The basis for the attack was that the report “has created a new logic that does not distinguish between the aggressor and the victim, and between terrorism and self-defence”. He added, “The new logic inaugurates a new era in Western civilization, and allows dictatorships to shed the blood of the Western World”. According to Mr. Rivlin, the Goldstone report would have put the British leader Winston Churchill “alongside the Nazi Herman Goering.” He said that if Israel acts according to the “distorted standards” set by the Goldstone report, it will expose its citizens to danger.

Shai Nitzan, Deputy Prosecutor General in Israel, who participated in the meeting, considered the report to have “proceeded from a legally wrong assumption, which considers the injury of citizens by the Israeli army as proof that it had committed war crimes”. He claimed that this “has no legal basis, as having civilian casualties during a war is a matter that cannot be prevented sometimes”. It is expected that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who began a visit to the US yesterday, would raise the issue of the Goldstone Report in his meeting with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.