'Delegitimization of Israel must be delegitimized'
Netanyahu: Israel must prepare for struggle against Goldstone report; Hamas: Prosecute Israel occupation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Friday that Israel must prepare for a protracted struggle against a damning United Nations report on its winter offensive in Gaza, after the UN's Human Rights Council endorsed the report.
"The delegitimization [of Israel] must be delegitimized," said Netanyahu at meetings Friday. He said the battle against the report, which accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, would be legal and diplomatic, adding that Israel should take the appropriate measures against it.
While the UN investigation labeled Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli towns as war crimes, the bulk of the findings focused on Israeli actions during the three-week campaign.
The 575-page document, authored by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, concluded that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure during the operation to root out Gaza rocket squads.
In his comments Friday, Netanyahu further said that the report was a symptom of a broader phenomenon that has taken place in the West and UN institutions over recent years.
"The UN has returned to the dark days during which it equated Zionism with racism," he added.
Meanwhile, Israel will seek clarifications from Russia, China and India in light of their voting for the motion on Friday. The deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, said Israel was disappointed by those countries' behavior.
"They needed to act with greater consideration, since the report is unprofessional, false and takes the right to self defense from democratic states, which in the end will also hurt them," said Ayalon at a cultural event in Holon.
Israel rejects UN body support for report
Also Friday, Israel's Foreign Ministry rejected the council's decision to endorse the report, calling the decision "unjust."
The Foreign Ministry issued an official response to the UN vote, saying that "Israel will continue to exercise its right to self-defense and to preserve the security of its citizens."
"Israel believes," the statement continued, "that the decision harms efforts to protect human rights in accordance with international law and hinders efforts to promote the peace process as well as encouraging terror organizations around the world."
During the UN Human Rights Council session Friday, the Palestinian UN delegate said during the session that "Israel denies Palestinians basic human rights and this issue cannot be compromised."
U.S. State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly on Friday defended the U.S. vote against adopting the resolution, saying it had an "unbalanced focus" and that the U.S. is concerned "it will exacerbate polarization and divisiveness."
Kelly continued by saying that the U.S. vote against endorsing the report "in no way diminishes the deep concern that we have about the tragic events of last January and the suffering caused by the violence in Gaza and southern Israel."
The parties need adequate time to study the report and establish accountability measures, said Kelly, adding that U.S. envoy George Mitchell will be meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials this week and next.
Jerusalem sources said that a marked improvement could be seen in Friday's UN Human Rights Council session, in comparison to the initial vote to establish the Goldstone commission, which investigated Israel and Hamas' conduct during the war, and subsequently compiled the damning report.
"However," the ministry statement said, "Israel still feels that the UNHRC decision was one-sided."
"Israel thanks the countries that supported our position, and those who, with their vote, voiced their opposition to the unjust decision which ignores the murderous Hamas attacks against Israeli citizens," the statement said. "The decision ignores the fact that the Israel Defense Forces took unprecedented measures to avoid harming innocent civilians, and the fact that terror organizations used civilians as human shields in Gaza."
Livni: UN body's vote was political and cynical
Former foreign minister and opposition leader Tzipi Livni also issued a response to the vote, saying that "since the inception of the Human Rights Council, it has viewed Israel in a distorted fashion, just as the report itself does. Today's vote was political and cynical. Israel will continue to do the right thing and to protect its citizens, and will continue the international battle against the report to ensure the legal protection of IDF officers, wherever they may be."
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi welcomed the council's decision and said that the adoption of the report's findings was an important ethical and legal decision.
"It is wrong to leave an entire population without the protection of the UN and the international community, who have now regained their honor," Tibi said.
Shas Chairman Eli Yishai condemned the UN council's decision calling it an anti-Israel decision based on an anti-Israel report.
Meanwhile, Friday, Hamas welcomed the UN vote, saying that the organization hoped it would lead to "the beginning of the prosecution of the leaders of the occupation."
"The Palestinian government welcomes the endorsement on the Goldstone report and thanks the friendly countries which voted in favor of the report," Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nono said.
Nabil Abu Rudeinah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, added that what was needed was a follow-up on implementation of the recommandations in the report, "to protect the Palestinian people from Israeli aggression."
"The most important thing now is to continue with steps to make sure that the Zionist criminals are brought to trial," said another Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri.
Following the vote, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a joint letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Press Association reported.
The letter acknowledged the sensitivity of the Goldstone report in Israel and encouraged Israel to handle it in a way that supports progress in the Middle East.
Israel's right to defend itself was stressed in the letter, which included an invitation to Netanyahu to visit Europe for talks.
Brown and Sarkozy laid out steps to move the peace process forward, including an independent and transparent investigation into accusations made against Israel in relation to alleged war crimes in Gaza; improved humanitarian access to Gaza; and a complete freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.