Congress members press Clinton on Goldstone

WASHINGTON (JTA) –  A bipartisan slate of U.S. Congress members urged the Obama administration to keep the Goldstone report from advancing to the International Court of Justice.

The U.N. General Assembly is poised to refer to the report, which accuses Israel and Hamas of war crimes in last winter’s Gaza war, to the United Nations Security Council. The council is the only body able to refer the report to the court.

"We know you share our concerns about an anticipated U.N. General Assembly resolution that is expected to refer the Goldstone Report to the Security Council, and ultimately to the International Court of Justice," said the letter signed by 95 members of the House of Representatives and sent Thursday to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "This is an extremely troubling development that threatens to undermine the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a critical time, and is counterproductive to our foreign policy goals.

"We believe that the correct venue for investigating issues related to Operation Cast Lead is not the Security Council or the International Court of Justice, but the world-class Israeli justice system itself."

A large majority last year condemned the report in a House resolution.

In testimony Thursday, Clinton said she also favored Israeli review of the allegations, and noted that Israel has done so — but avoided saying whether the United States would exercise its Security Council veto to impede such a referral.

"We have stood very staunchly on the side of those who reject the underlying premises of this report," she told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Meanwhile, B’Tselem, one of a group of Israeli human rights organizations that have described Israel’s response to Goldstone as inadequate, on Thursday said Hamas’ response was "shameful" and full of "baseless claims."

The Hamas reply said that its militants did not aim at civilians and that its rocket fire was legitimate in the face of an occupier.

"The vast majority of attacks were intentionally aimed at civilian objects in Israel, with the declared purpose of striking them," B’Tselem said. "Israelis living near Gaza suffered for many years from the ongoing rocket fire, and during that time members of Hamas and of  other armed groups expressly stated that the rocket fire was intended to strike civilians."

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