'Goldstone retraction could help Israel on legal front'

Senior gov't officials say no real expectation UN will overturn report; Change of heart may be used to deflect ‘war crimes’ charges abroad.

By
April 4, 2011 00:48
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Charles Dharapak)

 
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Israel is examining how Judge Richard Goldstone’s refutation Friday in The Washington Post of his own committee’s findings on Operation Cast Lead can be leveraged to prevent charges brought against IDF soldiers abroad for alleged “war crimes.”

Senior government sources said that while it was an “illusion” to think that the UN General Assembly, with its automatic anti-Israel majority – or the blatantly anti- Israel UN Human Rights Council – would rescind the Goldstone Report, Goldstone’s retraction could help Israel on the legal front.

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In addition, the sources said, the opinion piece Goldstone penned could help keep Israeli officials from someday being hauled in front of an international tribunal at The Hague for the 2008-2009 Gaza operation.

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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, told the cabinet Sunday he asked new National Security Council Chairman Yaakov Amidror to convene a special meeting of officials from the foreign, justice and defense ministries to formulate practical and public diplomacy measures “to reverse and minimize the great damage” the report has caused Israel.

He said recommendations were expected in the coming days, and that “we will act on the public diplomacy front, and on other fronts, with the international community and the UN in order to demand the justice that is due to Israel.”

Netanyahu said there were “very few instances in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel,” and that Goldstone’s acknowledgement that Israel never intentionally fired at civilians, and that its inquiries were carried out according to the highest international standards, “leads us to call for the immediate cancellation of the Goldstone Report.”

Government sources said that while this demand made good sense on a rhetorical level, on a practical level it appeared almost impossible to get the UN to cancel the move, and that other avenues were being explored to get other nations of the world to go on the record acknowledging what Goldstone had now belatedly come to realize.

The sources also noted that while Goldstone’s Washington Post piece was huge news in Israel, it was only a minor news item abroad – even though the publication of the original Goldstone Commission Report and its allegations against Israel were widely reported at the time.

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Although Goldstone’s article led some in Israel to say that the country erred in not cooperating from the beginning with the Goldstone Commission, Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday stood by the original government decision not to cooperate with the panel.

Only a government without “the right instincts” would have cooperated with a commission with an extremely biased mandate from the beginning, he said.

Barak added that while he didn’t have any expectations about the commission from the start, he did – at the beginning – have some expectations of Goldstone.

“It is too bad he woke up too late,” Barak said.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said before the cabinet meeting that there was no “forgiveness” for Goldstone, who published a blood libel about Israel and the IDF, and “caused horrible damage.”

Steinitz said that every honest and rational person should have known from the beginning that “he was involved in a blood libel against the Jewish state.”

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, in a briefing with foreign journalists, said that Israel hoped Goldstone would send a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wiping away the accusations against Israel.

Ya’alon said that Israel unfortunately has had much experience with “blood libels” of this sort, such as the killing of Muhammad Dura at the beginning of the intifada in 2001, charges of a massacre in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 and the Mavi Marmara incident last summer.

Israel, he said, was also experienced in how to fight against the lies and how to clear the country’s name.

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