Text size

Click here for more on the Goldstone commission report on the Gaza conflict

The decision by the United Nations Human Rights Council to delay the vote on the findings of its report into the Gaza conflict - in line with a request by the Palestinian Authority - has shocked the Palestinian public.

Palestinian sources told Haaretz that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made the decision to delay the vote immediately after meeting with the U.S. Consul General last Thursday, without the knowledge of the PLO leadership or the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and without any consultation.

The commission which produced the report, headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone, charged both Israel and Hamas with committing war crimes during the three-week operation launched by the Israel Defense Forces in December, in an effort to halt rocket fire from Gaza on its southern communities. Israel has rejected the report and accused Goldstone of having a political agenda.

The Palestinian sources said they believed that the consul general had passed on an unequivocal request from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ensure that the document remain on the table at the Human Rights Council.

Palestinian officials say that there was "heavy and ongoing pressure" from the U.S., which warned that the adoption of the findings in the commission's report would stymie progress in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abbas on Saturday made his first direct comments about media speculation on the issue, saying that his initial position had been misrepresented and that this was not a case of him withdrawing his support for the Goldstone report.

A group of 14 rights groups issued a statement condemning the consent to a delay and vowing to "seek justice".

"Abu Mazen has lost a lot from this," said Shawan Jabarin, who runs the al-Haq human rights watchdog in Ramallah, using Abbas' familiar name.

"Even the average man in the street thinks Abu Mazen has given up the rights of the victims and given up on pursuing Israeli war criminals," Jabarin added.

Protesters said they would march in Ramallah on Monday.

In the wake of the uproar, Abbas on Sunday ordered an internal investigation into why his own government ruled to delay the vote, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.

After deliberating between President Abbas and members of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, President Abbas issued a decree to form a committee to find the reasons behind postponement of the debate on Goldstone's report at the UN f Human Rights Council," secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, Abed Rabbo, said in a statement.