Israel's gambit to remove William Schabas as head of the United Nations Human Rights Council's inquiry into the Gaza war last summer succeeded beyond expectation.
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Schabas resigned on Monday, after it was revealed that he had authored a legal opinion on behalf of the PLO in 2012. The information was contained in a letter sent by Israel to the council.
Just one day after Schabas announced that he was resigning from the position, the acting council president, German Ambassador Joachim Ruecker, appointed American jurist Mary McGowan-Davis to head the inquiry. McGowan-Davis, who was previously a member of the panel, is regarded as a lot more fair with regard to Israel.
McGowan-Davis was head of the HRC's committee that implemented the findings of the Goldstone fact-finding mission into Israel's Cast Lead operation in Gaza in 2009. Israel cooperated with her at the time and provided her with substantial documentation regarding Israel's own inquiries into the operation.
In her report, she criticized Israel for the extended duration of its inquiries, but found that "Israel devoted substantial resources to investigating more than 400 complaints of improper behavior in Gaza" and that the Israeli investigations were conducted appropriately.
McGowan-Davis' report was one of the influences that caused Goldstone to write an article in which he recanted some of the conclusions of his investigation of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
Had the facts reported by McGowan-Davis been available to him, he would have produced a very different document, Goldstone wrote in his article. He also reversed his conclusion that Israel had deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials estimated on Tuesday night that the inquiry report, which is due to be published on March 23, will still be very hard on Israel. However, they stressed that Schabas' resignation and the manner in which it came about were likely to persuade many in the international community that the report was basically disproportionate and that it was written out of deep political bias against Israel.