The United States has suggested to Israel that easing the Gaza blockade would help counter the fallout from the Goldstone report on alleged war crimes during Operation Cast Lead a year ago.

Friday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to present a report to the General Assembly on the implementation of the report's recommendations by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The U.S. message on the blockade was relayed last week when a Foreign Ministry delegation met in Washington with senior officials from the State Department and the White House. Much of the meeting dealt with steps that Israel could take to help the United States and others block the Goldstone report and prevent it from reaching the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Heading the Israeli delegation was the Foreign Ministry's deputy director for international organizations, Eviatar Manor. The delegation met with officials including the U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, Michael Posner, and President Barack Obama's adviser on human rights, Samantha Power.

The Americans were interested to hear whether Israel had decided on whether to set up a committee to investigate Operation Cast Lead. Power asked about Israeli public opinion on this issue.

Power did not hide her criticism of Israel's handling of the Goldstone report; she asked whether Israel's thinking on the issue was "strategic or tactical."

"Is the correct strategy fighting Goldstone on all fronts?" she asked.

A main message of the U.S. officials was that the humanitarian situation in Gaza was directly linked to the ability of Israel's critics to push the Goldstone report forward and the ability to block the report's consequences.

Posner, who had held talks on the Goldstone report in Jerusalem a month ago, stressed that the document has two angles: "one humanitarian, the other multilateral. Improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza may be an important component of the change in the attitude of the international community toward Israel and will be very helpful against the Goldstone report."

The Americans said they do not believe in the policy of preventing goods from reaching the Gaza population because of the political situation there. "We do not accept the current situation at the Gaza crossings," one of them said.

The Israeli government has still not decided whether to form a committee that will evaluate the events of Operation Cast Lead. A decision is expected to be made before deliberations on the matter at the UN.

Sources at the Prime Minister's Bureau said yesterday that the plan is first to see how the deliberations at the UN proceed, and to gauge the reactions to the secretary general's report.

The forum of seven senior cabinet ministers met Tuesday night to discuss the Goldstone report and are expected to hold another meeting today.