UN expecting Israeli counter report

Abbas asks for probe of alleged human rights violations by his PA forces.

Goldstone Pillay 248.88 (photo credit: )
Goldstone Pillay 248.88
(photo credit: )

Top UN officials are eagerly awaiting an Israeli rebuttal to the Goldstone Report, which could come as early as Thursday.

Formonths, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been calling forindependent investigations by Hamas and Israel, which refused tocooperate with what Israeli officials called a one-sided and biasedinvestigation headed by South African Judge Richard Goldstone.

But Israel is said to be putting the finishing touches on arebuttal, which is expected to refute the Goldstone Report's centralcharge: that IDF personnel targeted civilians with disproportionateforce during last winter's offensive in Gaza.

"The secretary-general, as you know, has asked for theappropriate parties to comment on the Goldstone Report and we'verequested Israel's comments," Martin Nesirky, spokesman for thesecretary-general, told reporters at a noon press briefing.

"Wewill be looking at their response when we receive it. Of course,whenever there are allegations of serious human rights violationsanywhere in the world, serious investigations should follow."

Israel is also considering having an investigative panel to examine internal IDF investigations of Operation Cast Lead.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile,Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday asked afive-member body to investigate alleged human rights violations by hisown security forces in the West Bank. The panel was appointed inresponse to the Goldstone Report.

According to the Goldstone document, PA security forces havebeen cracking down on Hamas in the West Bank since 2007, and the forcescommitted human rights violations.

On Monday, American diplomats said the US has sought credibleinvestigations from both sides. Regarding Israel's anticipated rebuttalto the Goldstone Report, one Western diplomat said: "Clearly, if theIsraelis want to respond to it or give a reaction, that's probably agood thing."

The diplomat said it was hard to speculate further until the Israeli report arrives.

The United States expressed serious reservations about the UN report, which Goldstone first presented in September.

Sources said the Israeli document would portray a starkly different view of Operation Cast Lead than the Goldstone Report did.

In broad strokes, the new report will argue that any errors madeby the IDF were not criminal. Rather, they reflect the challenge Israelfaces in fighting an armed group that regularly infiltrates and mixesin with a civilian population.

Further details of the rebuttal remain secret, but it willinclude photographic evidence that Israel did not intentionally destroyGaza's Bader flour mill, according to a report published in Monday's New York Times.

It will also assert that Israel had nothing to do with thecollapse of a wastewater plant, rather, that the plant may have beendestroyed by Hamas explosives.

During a visit to New York on Monday, Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein was set to meet with Ban.

A spokesman for Edelstein said the minister planned to say theGoldstone Report was "anti-Semitic, it's outrageous and has a lot ofhalf-truths and lies," the spokesman said.

"He will tell Ban Ki-moon that the Israeli report will be agood answer to the Goldstone Report and will prove that the GoldstoneReport had a lot of lies and was not objective."

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of GeneralStaff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi are pushing for a judicial panel toreview internal IDF investigations of alleged wrongdoing duringOperation Cast Lead last winter.

Seen as a compromise between those calling for an independentinvestigation, and those who say the IDF can investigate itself, thepanel would be headed by an internationally respected jurist, but itwould not have the authority to question soldiers or officers.

"The idea is not to establish a committee like the WinogradCommission after the Second Lebanon War in 2006 but to have a panel ofjurists review the internal IDF probes and to give their opinion onthem," a senior defense official told the Post.

It is not clear such an investigative panel would satisfy thosecalling for Israel to be further investigated for alleged wrongdoings.

But US officials have expressed support for an Israeli investigation.

"Israel is a democracy and has the institutions to do a credible investigation," one source said on Monday.

"We certainly believe Israel is quite capable of doing asubstantive and serious internal investigation about what happened. Sowe have faith in the Israeli institutions."