Israel expects the United Nations to rescind a damning report of its conduct during the Gaza war in late 2008 and early 2009, Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon said on Sunday.

Yaalon's comment came as Israel's government was said to embark on a diplomatic and public relations campaign in the coming days seeking to leverage in its favor the article published by Judge Richard Goldstone in the Washington Post on April 1 about the United Nations investigation he led into Operation Cast Lead.

One of the possibilities being considered in Jerusalem is to try and persuade Goldstone to request of the UN that his article become an official UN document. In the article, Goldstone said that subsequent investigations by Israel of more than 400 cases in which soldiers had been suspected of intentionally targeting Palestinian civilians had led him to conclude that there had been no such intentional attacks on non-combatants. "If I had known then what I know now," wrote the South African jurist, "the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

Speaking during a briefing for foreign reporters, Ya'alon said Sunday that Israel is expecting that the UN fully rescind its report on alleged atrocities committed by the IDF during the Gaza operation.

"We hope that Goldstone will send a letter to the UN Secretary General and will clear the accusations leveled against Israel in his distorted report," Ya'alon said.

For his part, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said yesterday that, "Israel must force Goldstone to appear before international forums, especially at the UN."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was even more ambitious in demanding that the entire report be annulled, something that is highly unlikely to occur. Netanyahu assigned National Security Adviser Ya'akov Amidror to set up a joint team of staff from the Foreign, Defense and Justice ministries with the task of formulating political and legal recommendations following Goldstone's article.

Speaking during yesterday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that "we will try to undo some of the damage caused," and that it was his goal "to see the report canceled."

However, sources at the Foreign Ministry said that in the best of circumstances, it might be possible for the UN General Assembly to adopt a new resolution concluding that an earlier resolution, passed a year ago, which fully adopted the Goldstone Report, is no longer valid.

"In the current international realities, in view of Israel's standing and the standstill in the peace process, it is hard to imagine that such a scenario will recur," a Foreign Ministry source said, commenting on the previous instance in which a UN resolution was reversed - in 1991, with the revocation of the infamous 1975 General Assembly Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism.

Meanwhile, Goldstone's article in the Washington Post was criticized by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, issued a statement saying that the change in the stance of Goldstone does not alter the fact that Israel massacred civilians in the Gaza Strip and killed some 1500 Palestinians. And in an interview with the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam, Fatah figure Nabil Sha'ath said that Goldstone had probably succumbed to pressures in writing his piece. Members of the Hamas leadership made similar remarks.