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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Binyamin Net-anyahu insisted in the Knesset on Monday that Israel's right to defend itself must not be jeopardized by threats of international criminal prosecution against its leaders.
"We will not agree to a situation in which [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert, [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak and [former foreign minister] Tzipi Livni, who sent IDF soldiers to defend cities and civilians, will be called to the defendants' benches at The Hague," Netanyahu told the Knesset as it opened its winter session.
"Israel's basic rights to self-defense and to exist as a Jewish state are under continued attack, which has become even stronger following the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. Our first mission is to repel them," the prime minister said as he attacked the Goldstone Report.
"This report, written by the warped [Goldstone] Commission, questions Israel's very right to self-defense. This report encourages terrorism and also endangers peace. I want to emphasize this. Israel will not take chances for peace if it cannot defend herself."
He blasted the report in advance of Wednesday's Security Council debate in New York on the document, which accuses the IDF of possible war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza during its offensive there last winter.
On Thursday, the UN Human Rights Council is set to hold a special session in Geneva to endorse the report, including its recommendations, which could open the door for the International Criminal Court in The Hague to prosecute individual Israelis for their actions in Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority had agreed to defer UN consideration of the Goldstone Report until March.
On Sunday night, in the face of growing criticism, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said he would ask the UN Human Rights Council to hold a special session to approve the report and move it to the General Assembly and Security Council in New York for further action.
France's human rights ambassador, Francois Zimeray, told The Jerusalem Post that negotiations would now resume on a UN Human Rights Council resolution, with the hope of finding a text that his country could support.
"The draft resolution is not balanced enough," Zimeray said, adding that it was not reflective of the report, which did try to examine the actions of both sides.
Zimeray said the report differed from others commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council that had solely condemned Israel.
"For the first time in the history of the council, the [Goldstone] reached conclusions against both parties," he said.
"What we cannot accept from both camps is a context of impunity. If there are crimes [committed by Israelis and Palestinians], they should be punished in both camps," Zimeray said.
He credited Goldstone for going beyond his initial mandate by examining the misdeeds of both Israelis and Palestinians.
"Maybe Israelis do not consider it balanced enough, but it is definitely more balanced than any other report in the past regarding the situation," Zimeray said. "I do not remember many Human Rights Council reports saying that Palestinians had committed crimes."
"There is no lasting peace and no sustainable peace without justice, but there is no justice without serenity," said Zimeray, adding that human rights efforts should be become a war of rhetoric, in which verbal bullets are shot out of human suffering.
The council should draft a resolution that advances the cause of human rights and justice, he said.
"We want a resolution that would contribute to peace," he said, adding that it should "pay tribute to the victims of both camps."
He could not help but note, he said, that if Israel were to conduct an independent investigation into its actions in Gaza, then the issue would have not reason to go either to the Security Council or to the International Criminal Court.
These are steps that are taken only if the states fail to seek justice on their own, he said.
"Both parties should launch clear and independent legal inquiries," he said.
But in the Knesset on Monday, the prime minister blasted the biased nature of the UN Human Rights Council's mandate, which formed the basis of the Goldstone mission.
The fact-finding mission, he said, was asked "to probe the violations of international law by the Israeli occupying force against the Palestinians.
"I ask you to pay attention to the wording - 'the Israeli occupying forces' - this is after we cleared out of every centimeter of Gaza," he said.
The issue was not justice but rather Israel's right to protect itself, Netanyahu said. He quoted the commander of British forces in Afghanistan as saying that Israel went further to protect civilians during Operation Cast Lead than any army in the Western world.
"In this report the Israeli leaders, IDF commanders and soldiers are presented as war criminals. But the truth is exactly the opposite. The Israeli leaders and its army are those who went out to defend Israeli citizens against war crimes - and how! War crimes."
MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) was one of the few lawmakers to shout out comments during the four main speeches, yelling out to the prime minister: "You killed 400 children" during the offensive in Gaza.
Netanyahu responded that "the UN received the prime minister of Israel with more manners than did some of the MKs."
He spoke of the war crimes that Hamas had committed against Israelis, among which he listed a declared desire to commit genocide, firing rockets at Israeli civilian targets, using Gazan civilians as human shields, and holding IDF soldier Gilad Schalit illegally for three years without allowing Red Cross visits.
But in the three-page resolution on the Goldstone Report due to come before the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, no mention is made of Palestinian actions against Israelis. A copy of the draft was given to the Post by UN Watch, a Geneva-based nonprofit.
A page-and-a-half of the five-page document is devoted to recent Israeli actions against Palestinians in east Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, including charges that Israel has violated the Palestinian right to worship and the sanctity of religious sites. It also demands that Israel stop excavation work in the area of the Temple Mount.
The remainder deals with the Goldstone Report and asks that its recommendations be implemented.
The draft resolution also states that the "Israeli siege imposed on the occupied Gaza Strip, including the closure of border crossings and the cutting of the supply of fuel, food and medicine, constitutes collective punishment of Palestinian civilians and leads to disastrous humanitarian and environmental consequences."â€¢