Goldstone’s regrets are too little, too late

The judge cannot be released from his personal responsibility for a totally wrong and vicious description of what really happened in Gaza. His vague statement is a poor attempt to cleanse his conscience.

Judge Richard Goldstone (photo credit: Reuters)
Judge Richard Goldstone
(photo credit: Reuters)
Recent events in Gaza, where dozens of long-range missiles have been launched at our cities, hit innocent civilians and prevented our citizens from continuing with their routine activities, cannot be tolerated. The State of Israel cannot but take the necessary measures in order to bring this to an immediate end.
The Palestinian terror organizations’ pattern of behavior is a repetition of what happened toward the end of December 2008, when they launched a comprehensive attack, of over 60 missiles daily, on the Israeli civilian population in the southern part of the country.

As the prime minister of Israel, I had no choice but to take decisive action against the terror organizations in Gaza in order to put an end to the attacks against our civilians. This was an inevitable manifestation of the responsibility of my government. I am sure that the current government faces the same dilemma and will reach a similar conclusion.
We instructed the military to implement Operation Cast Lead in order to ensure the security of our citizens. The IDF commanders and soldiers operated in almost impossible conditions in order to track sources of fire that operated within civilian facilities and to ensure that our cities would be out of their range.
The terror organizations were making cynical use of their own brethren, using them as human shields. They also used schools, mosques and hospitals as hiding places, knowing that the IDF, being as moral as it is, would not hit civilian and humanitarian locations. What they expected from the IDF they failed to demand from themselves, and abused their own people. This hasn’t changed.
The population in Gaza is held hostage by the terror organizations and suffers the outcome of Hamas’s victory in the internal elections. The people deserve a better future, and it can be achieved only with a regime change.
THE SEVERE reality Gazans are facing is wrongly being attributed to Israel.
We always made the distinction between the terrorists and the population that was not involved in terror. Our policy was never to take any punitive step, and we never adopted any action plan aimed against the civilian population as a collective punishment. However, we were accused of doing so.
Now, as it was then, the international community hardly denounces the rocket fire on our civilians, and although it shows empathy for their suffering, it never took any real action to prevent it. Leaders I talked with told me that, had they faced the same reality, they would have reacted powerfully and brutally, but publicly they called on Israel to show restraint. There is no doubt that this reaction helps fuel the terror organizations.
The latest developments in the Middle East – especially the military attacks with missiles and aircraft in Libya, approved by the UN and NATO forces to defend innocent civilians – make me wonder why, when Israeli innocent civilians are the target of brutal terrorist actions, the response of the international community is not similarly explicit and straightforward. Why is the destiny of Israelis, and the attitude toward them, different from the attitude toward the suffering Libyan population?
After Operation Cast Lead, I was approached by the UN secretary-general, who asked me to cooperate with a fact-finding mission that would also look into damages to UN facilities in Gaza. I immediately agreed, since the mandate of the committee was reasonable and the purpose was fact-finding and not a predetermined conviction of Israel.
THIS WAS not the case with the committee, initiated by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, chaired by Judge Richard Goldstone. The results could have been anticipated from its mandate. My government decided rightly not to cooperate with the committee that was instructed to act on that basis.
There was a forgiving attitude toward the activities of the Palestinian terror organizations and their use of the population, and we see the results now.
Subsequently the report tainted Israel and caused it severe damage. Israeli soldiers who were sent on a justified and moral mission to defend the citizens became, as a result, wanted criminals in many countries. Is that moral or justifiable?
There can be no forgiveness for such a one-sided report. There can be no mercy for those who caused this damage to the state of Israel, its status, its reputation and its image. Israel checks itself and corrects its mistakes. We draw the necessary conclusions and bring to justice those who violate the rules. This reflects the moral foundations of our principles.
Goldstone, who lately published an article regretting the findings of his committee, cannot be released from his personal responsibility for a totally wrong and vicious description of what really happened in Gaza. His vague statement is a poor attempt to cleanse his conscience. It is too little and too late. Regretting the findings and reconsidering them is not enough and cannot be enough. The situation today is also an outcome of this irresponsible report, and current events prove how wrong he was.
The government of Israel will continue to defend its citizens and will do everything necessary to achieve this. Now it has a new dimension after the completion of the air defense program initiated by the government in 2007.
No hypocritical organization or committee’s false findings can limit Israel’s right to defend its citizens. Those committees must understand that their motivation to criticize Israel under these circumstances strengthens the terror organizations, weakens the moderates, increases the suffering of innocent civilians from both sides and makes the option of peace a distant reality.
History will judge the Goldstone committee and its motivation. History will judge the report. History will also judge Israel and the IDF. I know where the truth lies, and I know what will be the outcome.

The writer was prime minister from 2006 to 2009.