Barak refuses to discuss Gaza probe

PM to convene security c

The security cabinet declined discussing the establishment of an independent inquiry into last winter's Gaza operation, Operation Cast Lead, at the request of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The defense minister believes an inquiry, as a response to the Goldstone Comission's report, could cause further damage to Israel's international standing. Barak reiterated his support of the IDF for its conduct during the Gaza operation. The security cabinet discussed several options in handling the report and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz offered a number of possibilites, including the establishment of a commission of inquiry. The cabinet concluded to assemble a team, under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Ministry, to counter the report. The PMO released conclusions and statements of the meeting. "The most important sphere we need to work in is the sphere of public opinion in the democratic world" Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet. "Our struggle is to deligitimize the continuing attempts to delegitimize the state of Israel." Prior to the meeting, Israel's highest-level to date regarding the report, AP quoted a Netenyahu aide as saying that the prime minister had not come to a conclusion pertaining to the formation of a commission of inquiry. Government officials advocating an independent inquiry believe it would remove the possibility of Israel being brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague due to the court's refusal to hear cases in which credible and independent investigations are being conducted by the country involved. The PMO on Monday refused to divulge the nature of Netanyahu's response to a joint letter sent on Friday by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urging the premier, among other things, to set up an independent inquiry into Operation Cast Lead. The Goldstone Report and its ramifications are expected to be high on the agenda for talks between Netanyahu and international leaders, including US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who will be attending President Shimon Peres's 'Facing Tomorrow' conference. The conference opened in the capital on Tuesday evening. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Tuesday criticized the UN Human Rights Council for its endorsement of the Goldstone Commission's report, calling the council "a crooked body that acts in crooked ways, mainly against the State of Israel." "I backed Operation Cast Lead, it was right and restored Israel's deterrence, and I have full faith in the IDF troops" she said in Israeli radio interviews. "[Kadima's] position was that we must act in every possible place and counter the unacceptable comparison between IDF soldiers and terrorists." The GPO announced that the cabinet designated 50 groups as terrorist organizations. "This announcement follows the ruling of the UN Security Council and the US government according to which the above-mentioned organizations are involved in terrorism. The vast majority of these organizations are active all over the world and direct their activities towards various targets in the West and not necessarily against Israel. Almost all of these organizations are connected to Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the Taliban." Passing the declaration brings Israel into line with Western countries, specifically the United States, that pursue the financial means of terrorist organizations. The GPO added that, "banks and Israeli financial institutions will be obligated to examine their accounts and financial activities and report any suspicious activities connected to these organizations to the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority." Also in the meeting, the Minister of Justice was instructed to form a unit for legal proceedings against either the State or a citizen taking place outside the country and requiring special attention. The Ministry of Justice, Attorney General and Public Prosecutor will coordinate the establishment of the unit.