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Next week the deadline expires for both Israel and Hamas to investigate the Goldstone report's accusations regarding violations of the laws of war and perhaps even the commission of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. On November 3, 2009 the United Nations General Assembly approved by a large majority a resolution directing the organization's secretary general to report to the plenum on the conclusions of these investigations within three months, after which the Security Council is to take up the matter.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has only a few days left to halt Israel's slide down the slippery slope of its fight to bring down the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. As Haaretz revealed last week, the decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in October to ask the United Nations Human Rights Council to postpone the vote on the Goldstone report followed a threat by Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin to "turn the West Bank into a second Gaza." The deferment caused a great deal of damage to Abbas' already shaky status with the Palestinian public, and did not lift the heavy cloud of suspicion hanging over Israel.

Instead of wasting the little remaining time with further attacks on the credibility of Judge Richard Goldstone, the prime minister would be well advised to heed the advice of several public figures, among them former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, a former justice minister, and immediately appoint a state commission of inquiry. The U.S. administration also is urging the Israeli government to treat the UN General Assembly resolution with appropriate gravity, and warning that in the absence of an internal inquiry the United States will find it difficult to stop the snowball of the Goldstone report.

Even if the prime minister is convinced that the UN has it in for Israel, he must respect the organization's resolutions. How can he demand the international community's enforcement of the UN resolutions on Iran while Israel itself is violating that body's resolutions? But an Israeli investigation is needed not only out of fear of the International Criminal Court and of the arrest of Israelis abroad; the Israeli public has the right to know whether the country's leaders and military obeyed the laws of war and moral principles during the operation in Gaza. That is the way to avoid the next Goldstone report.