As senior politicians took sides opposing or supporting the establishment of an Israeli commission to probe IDF activities during Operation Cast Lead, a handful of parliamentarians claimed victory Wednesday when China announced that it would oppose any motion to discuss the Goldstone Commission's report at the UN Security Council or to allow the document to serve as a basis for lawsuits against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
The statement came during a state visit by members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to meet their Chinese counterparts in Beijing. Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi did not spare words during the meeting, slamming China for voting in favor of a resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session on Friday.
The Chinese MPs stressed that the UNHRC had the tools to look into the report, which accuses Israel of war crimes, without the involvement of other international institutions.
Hanegbi, who is leading the Knesset delegation to Beijing, explained that Wednesday's statement did not indicate a change in China's position regarding the Goldstone Report, adding that China had endorsed the UNHRC resolution because of other issues included in the document.
"Both Russia and China have stressed that they wouldn't have voted in favor of the resolution if it dealt only with the Goldstone Report," Hanegbi said.
"Right now, China, Russia and other states that endorsed the report understand that this must be the end of the road, because progress on this issue [i.e., if the Security Council refers the matter to the ICC] would have dire consequences for peace talks," he explained in an interview with Israel Radio.
When asked whether the Knesset delegation had tried to explain Israel's difficult situation vis-Ã -vis the Palestinians to their Chinese counterparts, Hanegbi said that the Iranian issue and not the Middle East peace process was the major topic of conversation in Beijing.
"China wants peace and stability in the Middle East, but it's not fascinated with all the details of the situation. However, it's one of the six world powers currently holding talks with Iranian officials. I feel it's important for us to get China to use all its powers of persuasion to clarify to Teheran that the world won't accept a nuclear Iran," Hanegbi said.
"It's true that China and Iran have very strong ties. China imports 14 percent of its gas from Iran. But China's top priority is stability, which is necessary for continued financial growth. We tried to explain that a nuclear Iran would undermine stability in the region and in the world, as it would lead to an arms race in the Middle East. That's why China must present a harsh policy on the Iranian front," he concluded.
From the Knesset podium, Speaker Reuven Rivlin complimented the effort made by Hanegbi and the other MKs. Rivlin described the action as an "important diplomatic achievement" that pointed to the importance of bilateral relations, including interparliamentary meetings.
Rivlin's office also reported that the speaker met Wednesday with deputy Mexican Foreign Minister Lourdes Aranda Bazouri, who expressed "understanding for the Israeli stance, and promised to act within her own country to further the Israeli standpoint."
Meanwhile, within Israel, an argument raged as to whether or not Israel should establish an internal commission as recommended by the Goldstone Report to probe allegations of war crimes among both IDF commanders and soldiers, as well as political officials.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak - the only senior government minister who held the same office at the time of the operation - threw his weight behind a successful effort to block a cabinet meeting Tuesday to discuss the possibility of establishing such a commission.
IDF officials also petitioned the government against an independent investigation into the report, with one military official telling Army Radio that the IDF would not be able to defend Israel successfully "if forced to consult lawyers at every turn."
Intelligence Affairs Minister Dan Meridor said explicitly for the first time that he supported the establishment of such an inquiry, and that his support was due to his confidence in the IDF rather than any doubts concerning its performance.
Two opposition members with long records in strategic affairs - former deputy defense minister Ze'ev Boim and former public security minister Avi Dichter - both gave their support Wednesday for the establishment of such a commission, although with certain reservations.
Boim emphasized that in general, he opposed the establishment of such commissions.
"It is a serious blow to the IDF if Israel drags soldiers, officers and statesman to testify before a commission as a result of international pressure," said Boim. "If this becomes a common practice each time, then we could create a situation in which commanders and soldiers could pause or delay actions out of fear of what a panel will say later."
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.