Rice: ‘Serious concerns’ about Goldstone report

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States says it has "serious concerns" about many of the recommendations made in the Goldstone report on the Gaza war.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also told reporters Thursday that the United States "is reviewing very carefully what is a very lengthy document."

The report, which alleges Israel and Hamas committed war crimes in last winter’s war and recommends international prosecutions if the sides don’t address its conclusions within six months, is 574 pages long.

"We have long expressed our very serious concern with the mandate that was given" to the Goldstone commission by the U.N. Human Rights Council "prior to our joining the Council, which we viewed as unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable," Rice said.

The mandate presumed Israel’s "violations" as a fact and did not include instructions to investigate Hamas’ role. Judge Richard Goldstone, who headed the commission, insisted on including a Hamas probe.

The Obama administration decision this year to join the council reversed the Bush administration policy of snubbing the Human Rights Council because its resolutions heavily tilt against Israel and because much of its membership is made up of major human rights abusers, such as Libya, Iran and China.

Rice said that whatever the consequences of the report, the U.S. emphasis would be on renewing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. "Most importantly, our view is that we need to be focused on the future," she said. "This is a time to work to cement progress towards the resumption of negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinains "and their early and successful conclusion."

Rice said it is the "strong view" of the United States that the report be considered by the U.N. Human Rights Council, not the U.N. Security Council. Jewish groups have objected to advancing the report at all; its consideration by the Security Council could result in legal moves against Israel and Hamas.

The Anti-Defamation League’s national director said he was "shocked" that the United States did not unequivocally condemn the Goldstone report.

"I am shocked and distressed that the United States would not unilaterally dismiss it," Abraham Foxman said, reacting to the response to the Goldstone report by State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

"There was a one-sided unacceptable mandate for this fact-finding investigation and that mandate was set forth before we joined the Human Rights Council," Crowley said. "Now we have a report. We’re going to take a look at it. I’m not going to talk about the substance of the report at this point. But in terms of its recommendations, we will consult with various countries and determine how to take action going forward."

Foxman dismissed that approach as equivocating. "If the U.S. were to substitute ‘America’ for ‘Israel,’ it could apply to Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

Separately, the America-Israel Friendship League called on Obama to denounce the report when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly next week.

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