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Richard Goldstone, the chair of the UN fact-finding commission on the war in Gaza, defines himself as a Zionist and has visited in Israel countless times. His youngest daughter lived in Jerusalem for 11 years, and he himself chaired the association of the Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for 25 years. He also served for seven years as chairman of the World ORT education organization, which runs over 150 schools with over 90,000 students in Israel.

Goldstone, 71, personally appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu some three months ago, asking Israel to cooperate with the commission's investigation. The request, which was the third of its kind, was refused.

Roni Laschno-Yaari, Israel?s delegate to Geneva, passed on the prime minister's reply, which said that Israel does not acknowledge the commission's mandate, opposes its very establishment and therefore stands by its decision not to cooperate with its work. Laschno-Yaari told Haaretz yesterday that "the report's conclusions were predictable, and even if we did cooperate, it wouldn?t have changed a single thing."

Official Israel refused to cooperate with the commission on Gaza from day one, claiming that it was ?born in sin? and that its mandate was "one-sided." The very fact that it was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, which Israel boycotts, made it suspect in Jerusalem's eyes. Israel says the UNHRC is controlled by Arab states and therefore its deliberations are rigged and suffer from acute anti-Israeli bias.

"I was appalled by the scope of the damage, and I'm worried by the influence of a siege on a population of 1.5 million," Goldstone told Haaretz in June after visiting the Gaza Strip. "I understand Israel's sensitivity about the UNHRC, and I think Israel has been treated unfairly."

"But I thought this time it will be different, because Israel is getting the opportunity it had been asking [for] for years - to make its case before the UN. I'm disappointed Israel wouldn?t use this opportunity," he said. In contrast, he said, "when we talk about the UN General Assembly ... we talk about the organization representing the entire international community. And I worry that Israel is isolating itself more and more."