Oron calls for Israeli Cast Lead probe

Meretz boss Oron calls f

Meretz head Haim Oron became the first MK from a non-Arab party on Thursday to call for the government to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the IDF's behavior during Operation Cast Lead. Responding to the UN Human Rights Council report on the operation, Oron said "there is no diplomatic wisdom in merely attacking the report and its writers." The government's decision to not cooperate with South African Constitutional Court judge Richard Goldstone's commission was a "big mistake," and "the best way to fix the storm that has erupted in the wake of the report is to form an organized committee of inquiry," Oron said. Leftist organizations in Israel have also called for a commission of inquiry, as did an editorial in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper. "The cloud of Cast Lead will not dissipate on its own," the editorial said. "Instead of a futile attempt to reject the report and undermine the legitimacy of the Goldstone Commission, the government would do better to establish a state commission of inquiry to thoroughly investigate the serious accusations that were placed this week on Israel's doorstep. Such a step could prevent a more severe entanglement." Oron faced criticism from MKs on the Right and from officials in his party for recommending a commission of inquiry. He recalled that he was criticized from inside Meretz for supporting the offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009. Former Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan, who was a staff-sergeant in the General Staff's elite sayeret matkal commando unit, said, "The government made serious mistakes during the operation but a commission of inquiry is not the right way to probe them." National Union MK Arye Eldad accused Oron of anti-Semitism. He mockingly suggested that Oron also call for commissions of inquiry to investigate whether Jews killed Jesus and used the blood of Christian children to bake matza. "The Jews throughout history were accused of poisoning wells and trying to take over the world, and throughout history, some Jews were persuaded that if the world said it, it must be right, and they became anti-Semitic themselves," Eldad said. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu said he had heard from foreign ministers around the world that they understood Israel's situation, and they were concerned about the impact of the report on their own ability to respond to terrorism. "The Goldstone Commission was established to find Israel guilty of crimes from the beginning, and the members of the committee didn't let the facts confuse them," Lieberman said in a statement on Thursday, joining the Israeli diplomatic blitz to curb the damage from the report into Operation Cast Lead. "The sole purpose of the report was to undermine Israel's image, at the beckoning of countries that are not familiar with the terms 'human rights' and 'war ethics,'" said Lieberman, who is currently touring Balkan states. "The Goldstone Report wants to return the UN to the dark days in which it determined, at the initiative of biased states, that Zionism is racism. It has no legal, factual or moral value, and is testament to its composers and initiators more than it is to the State of Israel. "The State of Israel will continue to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks and terror organizations, as it will keep on safeguarding its soldiers from attacks of hypocrisy and distortion," Lieberman said. Also on Thursday, Goldstone published a call for the international community to pursue justice where Israel's own investigations of Cast Lead violations, which "are unlikely to be serious and objective," fail to achieve justice. Goldstone seemed to flip the primary Israeli argument on its head. Whereas Israeli officials have decried that an investigative committee founded by, among others, Syria and Somalia, could hardly expect to rule on matters of human rights, Goldstone said that it is precisely because the international community is seeking to impose justice on nondemocratic rights-abusing states that it must do the same with democratic ones. "Pursuing justice in this case is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law. Western governments in particular face a challenge because they have pushed for accountability in places like Darfur, but now must do the same with Israel, an ally and a democratic state," he stated. Responses continued to come on Thursday from Israeli and Jewish groups, and from media outlets worldwide. The Anti-Defamation League called the Goldstone Report "fundamentally biased," and filled with "an outrageous and overreaching panoply of recommendations" that "must be rejected immediately by the United States and the international community." The ADL chastised the report for "its negative assumptions about Israel, Israeli society and its democratic system. In taking time to assess Hamas actions, the mission presents a false and illusory approach of even-handedness and creates a dangerous and totally unwarranted equivalence between the Israel Defense Forces and the terrorists of Hamas. Yet in its recommendations, the report focuses nearly exclusively and with an iron fist against Israel." According to the ADL, the report's bias toward Israel is evident in that "it implies that Israel refuses to investigate allegations of violations," "draws broad conclusions about a basic discriminatory nature of Israeli legal and judicial systems," and "[makes] no mention of Israel's security concerns, right to self-defense and right to fight a fair and just war." Meanwhile, "statements made by Palestinians and human rights groups are quoted directly and are taken at face value." The ADL accused the Goldstone Commission of letting the Palestinians off the hook: "Its recommendations related to the Palestinians are hollow, ineffectual, and not even in keeping with the requirements demanded of Hamas by the Quartet." A Foreign Ministry official told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the ministry was disturbed that the report "took at face value testimony of every advocacy group, but for all practical purposes ignored a 160-page text drawn up by our legal and military experts expressing our view of the Gaza conflict."