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White House: Official ‘misspoke’ on Goldstone report

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The White House says an official "misspoke" when he said the Obama administration would not allow the Goldstone report recommendations on Israel’s conduct in the Gaza war to reach the International Criminal Court.

A top White House official told Jewish organizational leaders in an off-the-record phone call Wednesday that the U.S. strategy was to "quickly" bring the report — commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council and carried out by former South African Judge Richard Goldstone — to its "natural conclusion" within the Human Rights Council and not to allow it to go further, Jewish participants in the call told JTA.

Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, called JTA later to say the official "misspoke" and that administration policy on the Goldstone report remains as articulated last week by Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador.

Rice described the UNHRC mandate as "unbalanced, one sided and basically unacceptable. We have very serious concerns about many of the recommendations in the report. We will expect and believe that the appropriate venue for this report to be considered is the Human Rights Council and that is our strong view."

She did not mention what the United States would do were the report to be referred to the U.N. Security Council — a necessary step were the matter to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

The report said the U.N. fact-finding mission investigating Israel’s conduct during the January 2009 war found evidence of Israeli war crimes. Israel has denied the allegations and said the report’s mandate was biased — an opinion echoed by U.S. officials.

The Obama administration is ready to use the U.S. veto at the U.N. Security Council to deal with any other "difficulties" arising out of the report, the White House official said Wednesday. The administration also has made clear to the Palestinian Authority that Washington is not pleased with a P.A. petition to bring the report’s allegations against Israel to the International Criminal Court.

The official said the Obama administration’s view was that the report was flawed from its conception because the mandate presumed a priori that Israel had violated war crimes and that the mandate ignored Hamas’ role in prompting the war through its rocket fire into Israel.

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