/ 20 October 2009

Israeli ministers weigh Gaza probe

Israeli ministers will discuss whether to set up an investigation into the Gaza war after the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed a damning report that called for such a probe, officials said on Tuesday.

The security Cabinet will discuss the Goldstone report during its meeting later in the day, a senior Israeli official said.

The ministers are split on whether to set up an inquiry into the 22-day war at the turn of the year that killed about 1 400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, according to Israeli media.

The majority of ministers are against forming a commission of inquiry, but some support the measure as a way of easing international pressure on Israel, media reports said.

The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council on Friday endorsed the report by a UN-mandated fact-finding mission led by Richard Goldstone, a former international war crimes prosecutor and respected South African jurist.

The report accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and recommended its conclusions be forwarded to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague if the two sides fail to conduct credible investigations into the conflict within six months.

The Palestinians welcomed the Council resolution, but Israel slammed it as a ”diplomatic farce” and warned that it risked sinking the stalled Middle East peace process.

Goldstone, who has faced a storm of personal attacks inside Israel in the wake of the report, dismissed the argument and urged the Jewish state to comply with the recommendation to investigate the war.

”It’s a shallow, utterly false allegation,” Goldstone said during a meeting with a group of rabbis in the US, remarks aired on Monday by Israeli public radio.

”What peace process are they talking about? There isn’t one. The Israeli foreign minister doesn’t want one,” Goldstone said, referring to Israel’s ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

”If the Israeli government set up an appropriate, open investigation, it will really be the end of the matter,” he said. ”That’s where the report would end as far as Israel is concerned.” — AFP