PM: Throw Goldstone Report into dustbin of history

Goldstone says report would be different if Israel had cooperated in probe, slams Hamas for intentionally targeting Israeli citizens.

Netanyahu 311 reuters (photo credit: Reuters)
Netanyahu 311 reuters
(photo credit: Reuters)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on the United Nations Saturday night to disavow the Goldstone Report alleging war crimes by the IDF in Gaza two years ago after its author said he had erroneously accused Israel of intentionally targeting civilians.
“The fact that [South African jurist Richard] Goldstone backtracked must lead to the shelving of this report once and for all,” Netanyahu said in a statement to the press.
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Israel had refused to cooperate with Goldstone’s fact-finding mission into its military operation in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, known as Operation Cast Lead, and rejected the September 2009 report, which accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity and suggested that the matter be referred to the International Court of Justice if Israel did not hold follow-up investigations into the matter.
Israel charged that the report, which focused largely on its actions in Gaza, was biased and flawed. But it has held investigations into Operation Cast Lead.
“Everything we said has proven true,” Netanyahu said on Saturday night.
“Israel did not intentionally harm civilians. Its institutions and investigative bodies are worthy, while Hamas intentionally fired upon innocent civilians and did not examine anything,” he said.
The absurdity here, Netanyahu added, was that the UN Human Rights Council, the body that called for the report, had Libya as a member.
“It’s time to throw this report into the dustbin of history,” he said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who held that post during Operation Cast Lead, said that Goldstone should send his new conclusions to the same international forums “in which he published his twisted and nonfactual report.”
“Only that way can there be a partial correction of the damage that was caused,” he explained.
Both Netanyahu and Barak spoke after Goldstone published an opinion piece in Friday’s The Washington Post in which he said: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
Goldstone said the fact-finding mission’s allegations that Israel took actions which intentionally led to the death and injury of civilians, were based on the information available to him at the time.
Investigations conducted by the Israeli military into those incidents, which have been recognized by the UN, “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” Goldstone noted in particular the work of the UN Human Rights Council’s panel, which monitors compliance with the report and delivered its own assessment of the matter to the council in its March session.
As an example, Goldstone pointed to one of the most serious attacks his committee investigated, in which 29 members of the al-Simouni family were killed in their home, apparently because of an erroneous IDF interpretation of a drone image.
“An Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack,” he said.
“I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings aboutintentionality and war crimes,” Goldstone wrote.
He added he regretted Israel’s lack of cooperation with the report.
Goldstone defended his committee’s work by stating that it had never intended to “prove a foregone conclusion against Israel” and said that Israel had a right to defend itself, just like any other sovereign nation.
He also defended portions of the report, particularly those that accused Hamas of violations and which he said marked the first time that Hamas was investigated and condemned by the United Nations. His report has also demanded that Palestinians investigate their human rights violations in Gaza.
While Israel has investigated its actions, he said, Hamas has done nothing. He had hoped, Goldstone said, that his report would sway Hamas to halt its rocket attacks against Israel.
Instead those attacks have continued, he noted.
“I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the UN Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted,” he said.
He called on the UNHRC to condemn Hamas rocket attacks against Israel and the Itamar attack, in which an Israeli couple and three of their children were killed.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu said Saturday that Goldstone should travel around the world and go country to country and newspaper to newspaper to try and repair the damage he caused Israel.
Benayahu said the IDF believed all along that it had operated in Gaza with a high moral standard, and that the military never deliberately target civilians.
“The same morals and Jewish conscience that led us during the operation and our subsequent investigations should lead Judge Goldstone to look in the mirror and realize that it is time to share his feelings with the world,” the IDF spokesman said.
Benayahu said that the IDF made some mistakes during the operation and has investigated all of them.
He warned, however, that Hamas and Hezbollah were already establishing their military infrastructure inside population centers and that the world needed to be prepared for the consequences in the event of a future war with Israel.
“We knew how to locate the mistakes even before we heard the name Richard Goldstone.
We did this for Israel and the Jewish people, and not for the world,” he said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Channel 2’s Meet the Press that he was not surprised by Goldstone’s statements.
“We had no doubt that the truth would come out eventually,” said Lieberman.
Goldstone actually came to the same conclusions that the two follow-up committees to the Goldstone committee came to, he said, namely that Israel’s court system acted objectively and professionally in investigating allegations of war crimes.
In addition, both Goldstone and the follow-up committees agreed that Hamas had done nothing to address allegations of war crimes or human rights violations that the Goldstone report accused them of during Operation Cast Lead.
Lieberman also expressed satisfaction with the fact that Goldstone recognized the anti- Israel bias of the UN Human Rights Council.
When asked if he believed, given Goldstone’s comments, that Israel should have been more cooperative with Goldstone’s fact-finding mission, Lieberman said that Israel did not want to set a precedent of international bodies interfering in the government’s internal decision-making process.
Rebecca Anna Stoil and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.