PM wants to fight 'delegitimization' of Israel

Netanyahu wants to fight

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu directed the defense, justice and foreign ministers at Thursday's cabinet meeting to present him with proposals, by next week, on how to fight what he called the delegitimization of Israel that goes beyond the Goldstone Commission Report. "We have to now deal with this trend of demonizing Israel," Netanyahu said. "It is bigger than Goldstone." Meanwhile, during a Foreign Ministry press conference, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel Beiteinu) did not rule out the possibility that the government might appoint an independent committee to investigate allegations contained in the report. On the eve of the vote at the UN Human Rights Council on whether to submit the report to the UN Security Council, Netanyahu admitted that the chances of blocking such a move were slim. "I hope that a majority will show equanimity," he said, at the opening of the cabinet meeting. "We have no confidence in this; usually there is an automatic majority against us." Netanyahu again warned that moving the report out of Geneva would strike a major blow on three fronts: • It would impair the international community's war against terrorism, "since it will afford total legitimization to terrorists who fire upon civilians and who hide behind civilians." • It would significantly damage the stature of the UN, and "return it to its darkest days, in which it could make the most absurd decisions, which would empty it of all substance and significance." • It would "strike a fatal blow to the peace process, because Israel will no longer be able to take additional steps and take risks for peace if its right to self-defense is denied." Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that while egregious, the Goldstone Report was not the first time the legal arena had been used to strike out at Israel. He said his ministry had two lawyers who had dealt with some 1,000 petitions filed abroad against Israeli security officials over the years. Lieberman said it was incumbent on Jerusalem to point out the hypocrisy of a situation where it is being judged by a Human Rights Council whose tone is being set by countries such as Libya, Cuba and Bangladesh. Prior to the vote, Israel has stepped up its lobbying efforts, with Ayalon, director-general Yossi Gal and deputy legal adviser Daniel Taub briefing foreign diplomats and the foreign press on Thursday. Ayalon, in a meeting with ambassadors stationed in Israel, called on the envoys to urge their governments to ignore the document. "If the report is adopted," he said, "the Human Rights Council will become the 'Terror Rights Council.' The report denies democracies the right of self-defense and in effect protects terrorism." Both Ayalon and Taub went to great lengths to stress that even if the government does decide, in the end, to appoint an independent investigating committee, it will not be because of the Goldstone Report. "The government is talking about different ideas," Ayalon acknowledged. "So far, its decision is that there is no need for an independent investigation. [However], if we decide to take further action, it will be based on our own decision, in accordance with developments as we see them." Ayalon and Taub said that the basic method of investigating military operations was by the army. "If there are changes in the system, they will be despite the report, not because of it," said Taub. He added that of the 36 incidents mentioned in the Goldstone Report, the army was already investigating 12, and that the first it had heard of 12 others was with the publication of the report. This meant that no human rights organization or Palestinian had complained about them throughout all the months since the fighting ended in January. He said he did not know about the other 12 incidents referred to in the Goldstone Report. Taub said there were three reasons why the report aroused more anger in Israel than any of the preceding ones, even though they were also critical of Operation Cast Lead. The first was that the narrative lacked any context. It did not refer to the thousands of rockets that had been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, nor did it assert Israel's right to self-defense. Instead, it accused Israel of conducting a deliberately disproportionate attack aimed at civilians. The second was the report made a "full frontal attack" on the Israeli legal system, despite its multi-layered structure. He pointed out that both the Military Advocate-General and the Attorney-General's Office would review the findings of the army's investigation of five key allegations that have been raised against the military campaign, and that anyone could petition the High Court of Justice. Third, the Goldstone Commission's recommendations were "unprecedented in their scope and one-sidedness," Taub charged. On a related matter, he confirmed reports that a group of senior lawyers from various ministries was working on each individual case in which an Israeli faced the threat of arrest and trial in another country according to the principle of universal jurisdiction. However, he declined to elaborate on further actions by the government to protect Israelis travelling abroad.