Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday rejected a United Nations report alleging Israeli war crimes during its three week offensive in Gaza last winter, warning world leaders that they and their anti-terror forces could be targets for similar charges.
Netanyahu made the remarks while speaking to Israeli TV stations on the occasion of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which begins Friday.
He said the UN report ignored Israel's 2005 withdrawal from Gaza and the Palestinian rocket attacks that preceded Israel's invasion, adding that lessons must be learned for future agreements with the Palestinians.
"I am telling international leaders: You are telling us that you support our right of self defense. Don't tell us that after the next agreement, tell us now. Reject the findings of this commission," Netanyahu told Channel 2 TV.
"Come out now, condemn this report and act to quash its consequences now," he went on to say.
The report of the UN commission, headed by South African justice Richard Goldstone, faulted Israel for civilian deaths in Gaza. Israel charged that Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers were responsible for placing rocket launchers and forces in crowded neighborhoods. About 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the three-week conflict.
The report also criticized Hamas for firing rockets at Israeli civilians.
Netanyahu called on the world to oppose the conclusion that formal charges could be brought against Israeli soldiers, officers and leaders as a result of the Gaza war. He said it was a blow to the fight against terrorism and warned that other countries could find their soldiers and leaders in the dock as the result of anti-terror operations.
Late Thursday evening, Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, asking for his support in curbing the effects of the Goldstone report. Netanyahu stressed that the report's conclusions compromise Russia's capability to combat terrorism, as well as Israel's.
Earlier Thursday, a U.S. diplomat criticized the United Nations Human Rights Council for giving an "unacceptable" mandate to the fact finding mission in the Gaza Strip.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Washington has had "serious concerns" about the mandate given to the Goldstone led four-member mission by the Geneva-based council. The U.S. officially took its seat in the 46-member body in early September.
"We have long expressed our very serious concerns about the mandate given by the Human Rights Council prior to our joining it," Rice said in her first reaction to the findings by Goldstone on Tuesday.
"We view the mandate as ... one-sided and basically unbalanced," she said. She also objected to Goldstone's recommendations, including one for the 15-nation Security Council to investigate and refer the war crimes to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
Rice urged both Israelis and Palestinians to look to the future in order to resolve their conflict.
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