US House condemns Goldstone report

Europeans, Arabs negotia

November 3, 2009 23:33
4 minute read.

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution on Tuesday condemning the Goldstone Report, that accuses Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, and calling on the Obama administration to oppose its endorsement. 334 representatives voted for the resolution while only 36 voted against and 22 abstained. The vote came after Judge Richard Goldstone, who led the inquiry, criticized the resolution, which describes the findings as "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy." Meanwhile, European nations launched intense negotiations with Arab states, ahead of a UN General Assembly debate on the report. With Arab states pushing a resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report - the product of a fact-finding mission into the IDF's Operation Cast Lead - EU countries were hammering out details of an initiative that would amend the existing resolution and send the matter back to Geneva. In an attempt to scuttle efforts by Arab states to bring the matter to the Security Council, and from there to the International Criminal Court, EU states were backing new language emphasizing accountability for crimes against humanity and calling on Israelis and Palestinians to launch investigations into war crimes. But even before the GA was set to debate the resolution on Wednesday, Austrian Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, who is president of the Security Council this month, signaled that the Goldstone Report could be discussed in the council before the month's end. So far, the council has not officially adopted the issue as part of its agenda. However, Mayr-Harting told reporters in New York that it was likely to be discussed as soon as November 11, during a scheduled discussion on protecting civilians in armed conflict situations. "It seems, evidently, highly likely to me that delegations and perhaps also the High Commissioner [for Refugees] or her designate will refer to this and other regional issues that involve the protection of civilians," he told reporters during a briefing on the Security Council's agenda for November. Asked in his national capacity to discuss his attitude toward the Goldstone Report, he said, "The priority, it seems to me, of many people, including the European Union and Arab states, is to make sure that there is a follow-up at the national level on both sides, in an inquiry both to the Israeli and Palestinian end, and I think that for us has the priority - that these very grave allegations are examined thoroughly by the Israeli side and the Palestinians." In a letter to the resolution's sponsors, including House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Goldstone expressed his "strong reservations about the text of the resolution." He said that he "undertook this fact-finding mission in good faith," and requested changes in the resolution text summarizing the background and findings of his report, as it included what he called "serious factual inaccuracies" and statements "taken grossly out of context." Berman responded by circulating a letter to members of Congress refuting some of the assertions and calling for continued support of the resolution, despite having the "utmost respect" for Goldstone, a distinguished human rights jurist. In spite of Goldstone's "earnest efforts," the report that emerged was still "one-sided and biased" and "lacks context," according to Berman. But the sponsors amended the measure to acknowledge that Goldstone had attempted to expand the mandate of his mission to include crimes committed by Hamas as well as by Israel. Ahead of Wednesday's debate in the General Assembly, Arab states were pushing a Palestinian-backed resolution that calls on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to act on the Goldstone Report. The draft resolution endorses the US Human Rights Council report and calls for Israeli and Palestinian investigations. Finally, it "requests the secretary-general to report to the General Assembly within three months on the implementation of this resolution, with a view of considering further action if necessary" by the UN. With backing from the Arab states and the non-aligned members, the resolution is expected to receive a majority vote in the 192-member General Assembly. But Israel has mounted an intense lobbying effort in advance of the debate in the General Assembly. Israel opposed the mandate of the fact-finding mission from the start, and Israeli ambassadors abroad have made Israel's case with their host governments. On Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon held a meeting with ambassadors stationed in Israel and stressed to them the importance of voting against the Goldstone resolution. It was unlikely, he told The Jerusalem Post, that Israel could prevent the General Assembly from acting on the report. "We will not have a majority," he said. In light of that, he added, "we hope for a moral majority, where Western democracies will not support it." During his briefing with ambassadors, Ayalon said of the resolution, "Enough is enough. We cannot be bystanders to the mockery Palestinians and others are making of international institutions. We ask all decent countries and international communities that could be affected by terror and incitement to sign up and oppose this resolution." Earlier in the day, Ayalon told diplomats and reporters at The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that the "Goldstone Report is going to affect all of us." "The danger in the Goldstone Report is the attempt to strip away the right for self-defense from democracies and to give it to terror organizations," he said. On Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone. "The European Union has been in close contact with the Palestinian delegation to try to convince them to come up with some wording that we are keen to have in a resolution that would be agreeable to the EU," a diplomat in New York told the Post. "We're hopeful that the draft we have here will be a basis for discussion." staff contributed to this report

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