Barak: Goldstone Should Retract Gaza Report in International Forum

Defense minister said in an interview with Channel 2 that some damage from Goldstone's report on the 2009 Gaza war is 'irreversible' and added that it was unfortunate that it took Goldstone so long to change his mind.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during an interview with Channel 2 on Sunday that Richard Goldstone should retract his report on the 2009 Gaza war in an international forum.

"Part of the damage is irreversible," Barak said, referring to the war report which accused Israel of committing war crimes. "If we bring about a situation where Goldstone expresses his position in an international forum, it may be possible to lessen the damage."

In an op-ed piece which has made waves in Israel, the former jurist said that if Israel had cooperated with his United Nations fact-finding commission into the events of Operation Cast Lead, the charges mounted against Israel in the Goldstone Report, including those of alleged war crimes and the intentional targeting of civilians, would have been different.

The defense minister said in the interview that it was "unfortunate that it took Goldstone such a long time to change his mind, but its better late than never."

Richard Goldstone in Gaza - AP - June 3, 2009

Israel had "prepared a document with all our legal arguments and gave that to Goldstone," Barak said. "He chose to disregard the information that Israel gave him."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that Israel was planning to launch an international campaign to persuade the UN to retract the damning report.

Netanyahu told his cabinet at its weekly meeting that Goldstone's retraction of his conclusion accusing Israel of war crimes was rare and deserving of further action.

"There are very few incidents in which false accusations are taken back, and this is the case with the Goldstone report," Netanyahu told ministers.

Barak had earlier expressed support for Israel's decision not to cooperate with Goldstone's fact-finding commission on Operation Cast Lead, calling the Commission for Human Rights which sponsored the report a "ridiculous forum of the enemies of Israel."

In the op-ed, Goldstone said that while "Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesnt negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes."

While Israel has shown to probe itself "to a significant degree" over Gaza war actions, Goldstone wrote, Hamas, who has been in control of the coastal enclave since 2007, "has done nothing."