kassam damage car 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's concerns about the Goldstone Mission, as explained in background conversations with officials, seems to be two-fold: that one cannot understand the Gaza fighting in December and January outside the context of a broader Israel-Hamas war, and that the mission's conclusions were determined in advance in order to unfairly bash Israel.
Operation Cast Lead, Israelis say, was not a disconnected outburst of aggression, but a response to the latest aggression in a long campaign by Hamas that included the hundreds of suicide bombings and shooting attacks of the past decade.
The feeling in the government, which is shared across the political spectrum, is that Israel cannot be expected to suffer attacks without the right of response, and that a legitimate response includes whatever is required to stop the attacks. According to the Israeli view, responsibility for Palestinian suffering lies with the militarism and cruelty of Hamas, not with Israel's efforts to weaken the group.
In his e-mail interview with The Jerusalem Post, Judge Goldstone appeared to speak directly to these concerns. He insisted his investigation would cover Israeli actions, but would also examine the detention of Gilad Schalit and "violations of human rights by Hamas in Gaza and by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank."
Is this a signal that the final report of the Goldstone Mission will include what is for most Israelis the root cause and broader context of the continued fighting: Hamas itself, its dictatorship and unending belligerency?
In demanding the expansion of the mission's mandate to include both sides of the conflict, Goldstone said he "thought that Israel might use this as a sign of a new direction by the Human Rights Council and would welcome it."
Such a "new direction" would indeed be welcomed by Israel. The UN Human Rights Council has criticized Israel more than all the world's human rights violators combined. Goldstone acknowledges this politely in the interview, saying he is "fully aware" of Israeli "objections to the council paying more attention to the Middle East than any other region of the world."
Acknowledging the reasons for Israeli mistrust is a good first step to gaining Israel's trust. But it is the final report and its handling of the context of the events of Cast Lead that will show that a UN apparatus utterly discredited in the Israeli street can be an honest arbiter in this conflict.
Goldstone won't be undermined if he finds Israeli misdeeds. But he will be completely ignored among Israelis if he fails to notice the murderous extremism that informs Hamas decision-making.
He has already couched his mission as a test case for a new Israeli trust in the UN human rights system. It will soon be clear whether he means what he says.