Goldstone in Gaza 311 ap.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
WASHINGTON – More than 90 members of Congress signed a letter supporting Israel in advance of Friday’s UN General Assembly vote on a resolution that would give Israel and Palestinians five more months to investigate their actions during Operation Cast Lead.
In a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the lawmakers expressed concern that the Goldstone Report was being used “as a tool to delegitimize Israel and sabotage the peace process.”
In the letter, spearheaded by Rep. Ron Klein, a Democrat from Florida, lawmakers underscored Israel’s right to self-defense and expressed faith in Israel’s justice system’s ability to investigate allegations of war crimes made in the Goldstone Report.
“We must ensure that our allies help us to prevent the referral of the Goldstone Report to the International Court of Justice – therefore jeopardizing the peace process,” they wrote.
Testifying before Congress on Thursday, Clinton said there were “serious deficiencies” in the Goldstone document. The whole concept of self-defense and the right to self-defense is not one that was adequately addressed or even taken into consideration, she said.
She said the administration believed strongly that the issues raised in the report should be subject to domestic review. “We believe Israel has the capacity and the institutions to do so,” the secretary of state said.
Pointing out that the Palestinian Authority had launched a probe, she said Hamas had not done so. “We have stood very staunchly on the side of those who reject the underlying premise of this report,” she said.
Also during her testimony, Clinton reiterated the need for tough sanctions on Iran, which has given the international community “little choice but to impose greater costs for its provocative steps.”
“The fact that the Iranian regime has failed to respond, and in the course of the past year has shown its brutality to its own people,” has “demonstrated to the rest of the world what the facts are about Iran’s ambitions and about its refusal to engage in a serious manner,” she said.
The administration’s policy called for the “broadest and most effective sanctions that can be brought to bear on the Iranian regime,” she said.
Clinton is to meet with Defense Minister Ehud Barak this week during his five-day trip to the US.
Barak was also set to meet senior American officials to push for US-led Iran sanctions.
In New York on Wednesday, Barak met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Goldstone Report, which Barak called biased and one-sided.
Members of the UN General Assembly are expected to pass a resolution on Friday giving the Israeli government and the Palestinian side five more months to investigate their actions during last winter’s Gaza war.
The Arab-backed resolution extends the investigations recommended by the Goldstone Report, which accused both sides of war crimes during last year’s Gaza war. At the end of the five-month period, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would report back to the Assembly, with the option of recommending further action by UN bodies including the Security Council.
The present resolution calls on Israel to “conduct investigations that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards into the serious violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law reported by the fact-finding mission, towards ensuring accountability and justice.”
It includes a demand for the Palestinian side to investigate, but does not specifically charge Hamas with conducting a probe. Ban’s report should be used to consider “further action, if necessary, by the relevant United Nations organs and bodies, including the Security Council.”
On the Security Council, however, three permanent members – the US, United Kingdom and France – oppose the matter being handled by the council. US officials, who rejected the Goldstone Report, said the issue should be handled through domestic investigations and not through UN action.
The Goldstone Report recommended investigations be launched by both
sides within three months, and earlier this month, Ban submitted a
report to the Assembly, including Israel’s report documenting its
investigation to date. But Ban failed to assess that report, or the
short document submitted by the PA, which launched an investigation in
recent week. “International humanitarian law needs to be fully
respected and civilians must be protected in all situations and
circumstances,” Ban wrote.