Palestinian diplomats deferred until March an effort to advance within
the United Nations system the Goldstone report charging Israel and
Hamas with war crimes.
The Palestinian Authority representation had garnered sufficient
support among the 47 nations on the U.N. Human Rights Council to win
the council’s endorsement, but failed to win the backing of the United
States and other Western nations. Without such backing, the Palestinian
resolution stood little chance of consideration by the U.N. Security
Council, the only U.N. body capable of making international law.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had threatened to suspend
the peace process were the report to advance out of the UNHRC.
The UNHRC meeting ended Thursday in Geneva without a recommendation; its next gathering is in March.
The Western nations want a resolution that describes the report on
last winter’s Gaza war as flawed and delegates consideration of its
findings of human rights abuses solely to independent Israeli bodies.
U.S. officials indicated that they would not allow the report to reach
the Security Council.
Israel refused to cooperate with the fact-finding mission, headed by
Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge. Israel’s government
said the UNHRC, which commissioned the report, has an implacable
anti-Israel basis, and noted that the fact finding mission’s mandate
drew preemptive conclusions, accusing Israel of "violating" laws.
Goldstone, who has strong ties to Israel and a number of Jewish
groups, attempted to address such concerns by expanding the mandate to
consider Hamas abuses during the war; Israel said the commission’s
mandate undermined whatever report might emerge. It accused Goldstone,
in the final report, of ignoring Hamas’ agenda of wiping out Israel, of
not sufficiently addressing the difficulties of combat in built-up
areas and of drawing far-reaching conclusions not based on fact.
A number of human rights and Jewish groups have acknowledged such
flaws but say the report includes enough substance that it deserves
Israel’s further attention.
For his part, Goldstone defended the report at a conference Thursday
at the National Press Club in Washington, saying every possible measure
was taken to ensure that the report was compiled in an evenhanded and
Goldstone maintained that the report did not look at the
justifications for either side’s actions, but rather at the manner in
which military force was applied.
"We went to great lengths to get the full story," Goldstone said,
stressing that a public acknowledgment of both Israeli and Palestinian
victims was necessary and important for the healing process. "Without
that, there can not be an enduring peace."