UN expecting Israeli counter report

Abbas asks for probe of alleged human rights violations by his PA forces.

January 26, 2010 06:28
3 minute read.
Goldstone Pillay 248.88

Goldstone Pillay 248.88. (photo credit: )

Top UN officials are eagerly awaiting an Israeli rebuttal to the Goldstone Report, which could come as early as Thursday.

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For months, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been calling for independent investigations by Hamas and Israel, which refused to cooperate with what Israeli officials called a one-sided and biased investigation headed by South African Judge Richard Goldstone.

But Israel is said to be putting the finishing touches on a rebuttal, which is expected to refute the Goldstone Report's central charge: that IDF personnel targeted civilians with disproportionate force during last winter's offensive in Gaza.

"The secretary-general, as you know, has asked for the appropriate parties to comment on the Goldstone Report and we've requested Israel's comments," Martin Nesirky, spokesman for the secretary-general, told reporters at a noon press briefing.

"We will be looking at their response when we receive it. Of course, whenever there are allegations of serious human rights violations anywhere in the world, serious investigations should follow."

Israel is also considering having an investigative panel to examine internal IDF investigations of Operation Cast Lead.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday asked a five-member body to investigate alleged human rights violations by his own security forces in the West Bank. The panel was appointed in response to the Goldstone Report.

According to the Goldstone document, PA security forces have been cracking down on Hamas in the West Bank since 2007, and the forces committed human rights violations.

On Monday, American diplomats said the US has sought credible investigations from both sides. Regarding Israel's anticipated rebuttal to the Goldstone Report, one Western diplomat said: "Clearly, if the Israelis want to respond to it or give a reaction, that's probably a good thing."

The diplomat said it was hard to speculate further until the Israeli report arrives.

The United States expressed serious reservations about the UN report, which Goldstone first presented in September.

Sources said the Israeli document would portray a starkly different view of Operation Cast Lead than the Goldstone Report did.

In broad strokes, the new report will argue that any errors made by the IDF were not criminal. Rather, they reflect the challenge Israel faces in fighting an armed group that regularly infiltrates and mixes in with a civilian population.

Further details of the rebuttal remain secret, but it will include photographic evidence that Israel did not intentionally destroy Gaza's Bader flour mill, according to a report published in Monday's New York Times.

It will also assert that Israel had nothing to do with the collapse of a wastewater plant, rather, that the plant may have been destroyed by Hamas explosives.

During a visit to New York on Monday, Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein was set to meet with Ban.

A spokesman for Edelstein said the minister planned to say the Goldstone Report was "anti-Semitic, it's outrageous and has a lot of half-truths and lies," the spokesman said.

"He will tell Ban Ki-moon that the Israeli report will be a good answer to the Goldstone Report and will prove that the Goldstone Report had a lot of lies and was not objective."

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi are pushing for a judicial panel to review internal IDF investigations of alleged wrongdoing during Operation Cast Lead last winter.

Seen as a compromise between those calling for an independent investigation, and those who say the IDF can investigate itself, the panel would be headed by an internationally respected jurist, but it would not have the authority to question soldiers or officers.

"The idea is not to establish a committee like the Winograd Commission after the Second Lebanon War in 2006 but to have a panel of jurists review the internal IDF probes and to give their opinion on them," a senior defense official told the Post.

It is not clear such an investigative panel would satisfy those calling for Israel to be further investigated for alleged wrongdoings.

But US officials have expressed support for an Israeli investigation.

"Israel is a democracy and has the institutions to do a credible investigation," one source said on Monday.

"We certainly believe Israel is quite capable of doing a substantive and serious internal investigation about what happened. So we have faith in the Israeli institutions."

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