Herzog: Israeli leaders' remarks led to Goldstone war crime accusations
Welfare Minister warns: Concept of rejecting anyone who opposes us is elitist and isolating.
Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog on Wednesday severely criticized fellow cabinet ministers for making remarks during Israel's offensive in Gaza last winter, which Herzog argues were used by the Goldstone commission to demonstrate that Israel had knowingly planned to commit war crimes.
The UN commission, headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, reviewed the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza and concluded that Israel was guilty of war crimes.
Herzog aimed his criticism at Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, and at Haim Ramon, who served as deputy prime minister during the offensive, saying that they had "repeatedly voiced a need for a harsh response" to Gaza rocket fire.
"The Goldstone report accuses Israel's government, not the military," Herzog said. "The report concludes that the government knowingly decided to destroy Gaza. The report bases these accusations on remarks made by Israeli leaders who don't understand that their chatter has serious ramifications."
"These are people with a lofty title but without any real influence on military actions," Herzog went on to say. "[These remarks] are part of a culture of spin, which has no meaning. People have to understand that words that are said have the power to ultimately harm Israel's interests."
The welfare minister went on to lament Israel's failure to cooperate with the Goldstone commission, saying that it was a mistake. "There was a systematic failure in Israel's handling of the issue up until the actual report was made public," he said.
In the lead up to the report's release, Herzog had repeatedly called for Israel to cooperate with the commission's probe. "We have begun to sober up on every level in recent months in regard to the report," he said. "The concept that we need to reject anyone who opposes us is elitist and isolating. Instead of rejection, we need dialogue and coping."
The minister added that in order to shield Israel's actions from being discussed in international forums, Israel will have to carry out an internal investigation into its conduct during the Gaza offensive. He added that in order to cope with the report and its ramifications Israel must also advance the peace process and ease restrictions in Gaza. According to Herzog, the report's accusations should be investigated fairly in a way that won't lay all the blame on the army.
Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, said that the report didn't pose a legal issue, but rather that it was a diplomatic one. "We must not delude ourselves that if we investigate the investigation this report will disappear," she said.