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U.S. dodges UN debate on Goldstone Gaza report

The United States on Wednesday openly eschewed a United Nations General Assembly debate on a resolution that would call on Israel and the Palestinians to investigate charges of war crimes during the Gaza war detailed in the Goldstone Commission's report.

The nonbinding resolution on the Goldstone report, which looked certain to be approved by the 192-nation assembly, also requests that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon submit the 575-page report to the Security Council.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice skipped the discussion and sent her deputy, Alejandro Wolff, as an observer instead.

The report, commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council and published on Sept. 15, lambasted both sides in the December-January conflict, which killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, but was harsher toward Israel.

Diplomats say there is little chance that the report or the Arab-drafted resolution could lead to punishment of either side. But it has enraged Israel and galvanized American Jews.

In the assembly debate, Arab envoys praised the report by South African jurist Richard Goldstone and demanded an end to what they called the Israel's impunity. But Israel damned the document as "conceived in hate and executed in sin.""

There is no veto in the assembly and the resolution looked sure to win a majority. But with more than 40 envoys listed to speak, most of them from Arab and other Muslim countries, it was unclear when the vote would take place.

Israel's ally the United States was one of a small number of countries expected to vote against the resolution. In a clear warning to the administration, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday urged President Barack Obama to oppose UN endorsement of Goldstone's findings.

Most members of the 27-nation European Union were likely to abstain, although diplomats said negotiations were underway with the Arabs to agree a text the Europeans could support.

The diplomats said the EU opposed the resolution's implicit endorsement of the Goldstone report, which Western states have called flawed, although making important points.

Representing the EU, Ambassador Anders Liden of Sweden, the bloc's current president, called the report serious and urged Israel and the Palestinians to launch "appropriate, credible and independent investigations" into its charges.

But Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev gave no hint that her country, which refused to cooperate with Goldstone, would respond.

In her address to the assembly, she attacked both the Goldstone Report and the international body as being "irreparably tainted" and "bending both fact and law."

The ambassador also said the report, which accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes during their war in the Gaza Strip in January, was "born in hate and prepared in sin."

"[The] report and this debate do not promote peace; they damage any effort to revitalize negotiations in our region," added Shalev, who was one of the first speakers at the assembly's debate on the report.

The ambassador said the report ignored "the reality of terror" and the complexities of urban warfare against terrorists.

She also dismissed the Goldstone panel as "a politicized body with predetermined conclusions."

Shalev reminded the General Assembly that Israel had suffered eight years of rocket attacks from Gaza, which violated the human rights of Israeli civilians.

"[But] rather than discuss how to better stop terrorist groups who deliberately target civilians, this body launches yet another campaign against the victims of terrorism, the people of Israel," she said.

Time and again, Shalev charged, the report turned Israel's unprecedented efforts to save civilian lives against it, using them as proof that any civilian casualties were therefore deliberate.

She also criticized the report for dismissing Israel's independent legal system, its investigations of misconduct in the armed forces, and its right to self-defense.

Goldstone's report urged the Security Council to order both sides to carry out credible investigations into alleged abuses during the conflict and to follow that up with legal action where necessary.

If either side refuses, the panel said, the Security Council should forward the evidence to the International Criminal Court, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, for prosecution.

Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour, meanwhile, rejected Israel's principal argument that the report ignored the Jewish state's right to defend itself. Israel attacked Gaza on Dec. 27 to try to stamp out Palestinian rocket fire against Israeli cities.

Of 36 incidents in Gaza investigated by Goldstone, "with only one exception, the facts prove that there were no military targets that could justify such attacks by the Israeli occupying forces," Mansour said.

He also reaffirmed that the Palestinian Authority was ready to investigate Goldstone's charges against the Palestinians. But the West Bank-based authority has no control over the Hamas authorities in Gaza.

The resolution follows Goldstone in calling on Israel and "the Palestinian side" to undertake within three months credible investigations into the report's charges.

It also asks Ban to submit the report to the Security Council. But diplomats said all five veto-wielding permanent council members opposed council involvement, so it was unlikely the 15-nation body would take action.

Click to view image: 'd881be316155-gabriela.jpg'

Added: Nov-5-2009 
By: loweyes
Middle East
Tags: israel, palestine, gaza, war, crimes, goldstone, phosphorus, flechettes, west, bank, settlements
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