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(photo credit: AP)
Israel has already investigated 26 out of 36 allegations of misconduct during Operation Cast Lead, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in an interview published in The Washington Post on Saturday.
This was done not because of any UN decision, but "because this is our procedure," he said.
Asked if he favored an independent inquiry in light of the Goldstone Commission report that accused Israel of war crimes, Netanyahu said, "We're looking into that [the allegations] not because of the Goldstone Report but because of our own internal needs."
The best way to diffuse the issue, he said, "is to speak the truth, to take a stance, because Israel was defending itself with just means against an unjust attack."
Expanding on his call earlier this week for an Israeli team to begin drawing up recommendations on amending the international laws of war to be compatible with the new terrorist-infested battlefield, Netanyahu said "serious countries have to think about adapting the laws of war. Not changing them but adapting the laws of war to the age of terrorism and guerrilla warfare."
"If the terrorists believe they have a license to kill by choosing to kill from behind civilian lines, that's what they'll do again and again," he said. "All they have to do is launch missiles and rockets from densely populated areas and sit back and enjoy the condemnation of the world against the governments that respond to them. And obviously, what should governments do? What exactly is Israel supposed to do?
"I thought there were limits to hypocrisy, but I was obviously wrong," he said. "The so-called Human Rights Commission accuses Israel that legitimately defended itself against Hamas of war crimes. Mind you, Hamas... committed four.
"First, they called for the destruction of Israel, which under the UN Charter is considered a war crime - incitement to genocide; secondly, they fired deliberately on civilians; third, they hid behind civilians; and fourth, they've been holding our captured soldier, Gilad Schalit, without access to the Red Cross, for three years," the prime minister said.
"And who gets accused of criminal behavior at the end of the day?" he asked. "Israel that sent thousands of text messages and made tens of thousands of cellular phone calls to Palestinian civilians [to warn them to evacuate]."
In recent days Netanyahu has likened the whole Goldstone matter to a UN commission set up to look into America's actions against the Taliban in Afghanistan following 9/11, and reporting that, by the way, "al-Qaida did a few things too."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, spoke with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon late on Thursday and urged him not to pass the Goldstone Commission report onto the General Assembly or the Security Council, saying it was inconceivable that the Palestinians would conduct negotiations with Israel on the one hand, while waging war against it in international forums on the other.
Lieberman told Ban "a distorted reality" had been created whereby in every international forum there was an automatic majority for those countries for whom human rights is a very low priority, such as Cuba, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He said these countries were turning the international system into a hypocritical mockery that operated according to stereotypes.
He said a way needed to be found to "correct the situation so that a stable and balanced" international system could be created.
President Shimon Peres also related to the Goldstone Report, in an interview with Newsweek to come out on Sunday, saying, "I think it's a great victory for terror. Never before did any terrorist organization gain such recognition, in the most unfair way."
Judge Richard Goldstone made a mistake by agreeing to "preside over a committee which has an anti-Israeli majority - it cannot be objective if the judges are not objective," Peres said.
The committee's conclusions were one sided, he said: "There are 26 recommendations. Not one deals with terror. The terrorists are flying free and high. It's unbelievable."
Regarding the diplomatic process, Peres praised Netanyahu for his willingness to accept a two-state solution, saying "that is a major change. And we are being described as rightists, extremists?"
Asked if he though Netanyahu was being unfairly portrayed in the US, Peres said, "He came from the right, but he's no longer a rightist. He agreed to a two-state solution and to what no other prime minister ever agreed to - to freeze settlements."
Netanyahu has said that he would agree to a temporary moratorium on new housing starts beyond the Green Line, but not in Jerusalem, if this would be met by corresponding gestures of normalization from the Arab world. The Palestinians are calling for a complete settlement freeze, including building already underway, as a condition for restarting the talks with Israel.
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