The Goldstone Report included a threat to Israel that had been overlooked so far but could lead to voluntary, far-reaching economic sanctions against Israel by UN members, a US Jewish organization, the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI), warned on Wednesday.
According to former US ambassador Richard Schifter, the threat comes from a paragraph in the report's recommendations referring to a UN provision stating that if the Security Council does not order action to be taken by the UN against Israel, members of the General Assembly may take voluntary, collective action instead.
The provision was used by the General Assembly members to apply tough economic sanctions against South Africa in 1982 and AJIRI is concerned that it could now be used against Israel.
The Goldstone Commission recommended that the General Assembly may remain apprised of the implementation of its findings and recommendations "until it is satisfied that appropriate action is taken at the domestic and international level to ensure justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators."
The General Assembly may consider whether additional action within its powers is required in the interests of justice, including under Resolution 377 (V) "Uniting for Peace."
According to the "Uniting for Peace" resolution, if the Security Council fails to take action due to a lack of unanimity among its permanent members - apparently a reference to a veto by one or more of the five permanent members - "the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures, including, in the case of breach of the peace or an act of aggression, the use of armed force when necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security."
Schifter said the resolution was first drafted and used to sanction UN countries to wage war against North Korea in 1950 and to impose economic sanctions against the apartheid South African regime in 1982. It was originally spearheaded by the US after the Soviet Union vetoed Security Council resolutions ordering the UN to take measures against North Korea.
Schifter told The Jerusalem Post his suspicions regarding the intent of this recommendation in the Goldstone Report were triggered by the fact that many equate the apartheid regime in South Africa with Israel.
"I think the people who wrote this recommendation had in mind the action taken in 1982," he told the Post.
Only the UN Security Council can order member nations to take action. Schifter estimated that of the 15 countries currently on the Security Council, only eight would vote in favor of a motion to refer the Goldstone Report to the International Criminal Court. His estimate was based on these countries' votes on a General Assembly resolution on November 5, 2009, which endorsed the report. Six other current members of the Security Council abstained in that vote, while the US voted against. The General Assembly vote was 114 in favor of endorsing the report, 18 against, 46 abstentions and 16 absences.
A majority of at least two-thirds of the Security Council members is required to approve a resolution. Currently, those in favor of referring the report to the ICC are one short of the necessary majority. Even if they obtain it, however, any one of the permanent Security Council members may cast a veto. Schifter predicted that the US would do so if necessary. Thus he believes that the threat of an ICC investigation is negligible.
But that does not mean Israel is out of danger of economic sanctions by UN members acting collectively because of the Uniting for Peace resolution. He advised Israel to campaign in the General Assembly to secure a blocking vote of one-third plus one of the countries that cast their ballots, or to prevent the supporters of the resolution from obtaining more than 50 percent of the votes of all UN member states.
Meanwhile, an official said the government was aware of the Goldstone Report's Uniting for Peace resolution, but was more concerned with preventing the report from reaching the ICC, which, he said, was "a more serious" matter.