Goldstone debate deferred to March

(JTA) — 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 Human Rights Council. Its meeting ended Oct. 1 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 Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report, has an implacable anti-Israel basis and noted that the fact-finding mission’s mandate drew pre-emptive 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 an Oct. 1 conference at the National Press Club in Washington, saying every possible measure was taken to ensure that the report was compiled in an evenhanded and fair manner.

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."

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