palestinian protestors 248 88 AP.
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced Sunday that a new committee would be established in order to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Thursday deferral of the UN vote on the Goldstone Report.
By the end of last week's UN Human Rights Council debate, meant to determine whether a petition for action would be filed to the UN Security Council based on the fact-finding mission's conclusions, a decision still had not been made. Following pressure reportedly exerted by the US, Abbas requested to continue the discussions at a later date while deferring the vote on the matter to March.
The delay drew heavy criticism on Saturday from many Palestinian factions and especially Hamas, who condemned the fact that the deferral had been requested by the PA delegates themselves in the face of US pressure. Schools in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip were shut down Saturday in protest.
"Justice delayed is justice denied," read a joint statement released by Palestinian human rights organizations. "The belief that accountability and the rule of law can be brushed aside in the pursuit of peace is misguided." Officials in both Hamas and Fatah accused Abbas of trying to shirk responsibility and of capitulating to blackmail by Israel.
Fatah leaders met late Saturday and demanded action. In an apparent attempt at damage control, Abbas announced he has appointed a three-member committee to look into how the decision was made. The announcement, made on Palestinian news agency Wafa Sunday, did not state whether Abbas would himself come under scrutiny.
Abbas's critics are unlikely to go after him personally and are more likely to seek the dismissal of advisers seen as encouraging him to take the decision. Abbas aides have defended the decision, saying the Palestinians needed more time to win international support for the Goldstone Report.
However, a prominent Palestinian commentator, Zakaria Mohammed, said Abbas was clearly to blame. "People are furious at him and his decision," he wrote on the independent "Faisal" Web site.
The new committee will be charged with determining, among other things, who was responsible for the decision to defer the vote. The PA president's recent decision was possibly geared toward diminishing internal opposition to the Fatah-ruled PA's actions in the international arena.
AP contributed to this report