In the run-up to publication by the UN Human Rights Council this week of what is expected to be a very critical report of Israel’s actions during last summer’s Gaza offensive, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on the offensive Monday, trying to delegitimize the delegitimizers.
The council, Netanyahu said at the start of a meeting with visiting Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna, has passed more resolutions against Israel than against North Korea, Syria and Iran combined.
Furthermore, he said, the council first appointed as head of the Gaza investigation committee a man, William Schabas, who at one time received payment from the PLO.
The “so-called investigation” committee established by the UNHRC, Netanyahu said, pronounced Israel “guilty even before the examination began.”
Netanyahu’s comments came a day after Israel released it’s own government report about the events in Gaza last summer, in an effort to blunt the censure expected in the UN report.
Israel’s report, Netanyahu said, demonstrates “unequivocally that our military actions during that conflict were in full accordance with international law, that Israel was exercising its legitimate right of self-defense.”
Netanyahu said Israel has the legitimate right, as well as the responsibility, to protect its people against terrorists committing a double war crime: firing indiscriminately at Israeli citizens from behind their own.
The prime minister said Israel goes to great lengths to prevent harm to civilians, even civilians on the enemy side – and this not out of concern for any committee or another, but because it is something deeply ingrained in Israel’s value system.
“There is no country that investigates its military for possible wrongdoing more than Israel,” he said. “We examine all such allegations professionally, throughly; they are subjected to independent judicial review by military and civilian courts.”
Netanyahu said the UN investigation has nothing to do with human rights, and “everything to do with politically inspired attacks in a cynical effort to delegitimize Israel using UN bodies.”
The prime minister said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was involved in these efforts, on Sunday calling in South Africa for the labeling and boycotting of Israeli products from beyond the Green Line.
“This is definitely not the language of peace,” he said. “We will continue to resist boycotts, defamations, delegitimization.
We’ll do that internationally, we’ll do that locally if we need to, and our hand will remain stretched out for peace for any partner that wants to have peace with us.”
Netanyahu noted that he was making these comments to the foreign minister of a “free, proud and independent Poland,” on whose soil Jews were defamed when the Nazis controlled Europe.
“The attacks on the Jews were always preceded by the slander of the Jews,” he said.
“What was done to the Jewish people then is being done to the Jewish state now. We won’t accommodate that. In those days we could do nothing. Today we can speak our mind, hold our ground. We’re going to do both.”
Schetyna is in Israel to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Following his meeting with the Polish foreign minister, Netanyahu met with visiting Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, and the focus of his statements at the start of that meeting was Iran and its hand in regional terrorism, not the UN report.
Earlier this month a suspected Hezbollah operative was arrested in Cyprus in an apartment filled with five tons of fertilizer that can be used to make explosives.
‘We are suffering from terrorism in this region. A lot of this terrorism in the region and beyond the region is fomented by Iran that, along with its henchmen in Hezbollah, operate a worldwide terrorist network of over 30 countries on five continents, “ he said, mentioning the recent incident in Cyprus.
Netanyahu noted that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran has scored a “great victory” so far in its nuclear negotiations with the world powers, but that “If Iran wins the world loses.” If the deal goes through, he said, Iran will get an influx of billions of dollars that will be used for its “terrorist networks and its aggression in the region.”
Netanyahu reiterated his argument, so far roundly rejected by Washington, that the nuclear talks should be linked to Iran’s behavior and aggression in the region, and that the lifting of the restrictions and sanctions on Iran should not be done until that country changes its destabilizing behavior in the region.