/ 14 October 2009

Israel braces for UN debate on Gaza war report

Israel braced on Wednesday for what is expected to be a bruising United Nations debate on a report that accuses the Jewish state and Hamas of war crimes during its Gaza offensive at the turn of the year.

Read the report of the United Nations fact finding mission on the Gaza conflict

The UN Security Council was to discuss the so-called Goldstone report later on Wednesday at its regular monthly meeting on the Middle East, a day before the UN Human Rights Council reopens its own debate in Geneva.

The UN mandated fact-finding mission headed by respected South African judge Richard Goldstone drew sharp criticism from Israel, which reiterated on Wednesday that adoption of the report would knock out any chances of restarting Middle East peace talks.

“It’s not reassuring that such a report can be taken seriously by democratic countries, as it is a completely unrealistic, biased and preposterous,” said Yigal Palmor, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry.

The report recommends its conclusions be forwarded to the International Criminal Court prosecutor in The Hague if Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas fail to carry out credible investigations within six months.

Palmor said such a move “risks torpedoing the launch of peace talks and creates a dangerous precedent for any country that wants to defend itself against terrorist attacks”.

Israel did not cooperate with the Goldstone team, saying the mission’s mandate was biased from the start against the Jewish state.

Israel’s UN ambassador Gabriela Shalev, meanwhile, said her country was counting on its main ally Washington in case the report comes to a vote by the Security Council, where the United States wields veto power.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the United States will impose their veto in case of a vote by the Security Council,” she told army radio.

Discord over the Goldstone report has also deepened the divide between the two main Palestinian factions after the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva agreed on October 2 to defer a vote on the report.

The decision came after the Palestinian delegation, appointed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, dropped its insistance on an immediate vote.

Abbas faced a hail of criticism both at home and abroad for the decision, with Hamas accusing him of “betraying” the Palestinian victims of the Gaza war and asking that the signing of a long-delayed reconciliation deal between the two factions be postponed.

The beleaguered president defended his decision, but in the face of the outrage made an about-turn.

And, at the request of the Palestinian delegation, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council was to hold a special session on Thursday on the situation in the Palestinian territories and east Jerusalem. — AFP