PA Pushing for UN to Act on Goldstone 'War Crime' Findings

Israel and U.S. are furious with initiative over Gaza war, are seeking to recruit EU to help foil it.

The Palestinian Authority is urging the UN Human Rights Council to adopt the Goldstone Commission report in full and pass it on to the General Assembly for action.

The report, which accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes during their three-week war in the Gaza Strip this January, was formally presented to the council Tuesday.

Israel and the United States, however, are furious with the PA initiative and are seeking to recruit the European Union to help foil it. Israel's diplomatic-security cabinet will meet Wednesday to discuss Jerusalem's response to the report.

The Human Rights Council is due to discuss the report Wednesday and Thursday and then vote either tomorrow night or Friday on whether to adopt it and what further action to mandate. The report itself urges that both sides be given six months to conduct their own investigations, and if these prove unsatisfactory, the Security Council should refer both sides to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

According to a senior Foreign Ministry official, the PA submitted its "extremely anti-Israel" proposal to the council last week in conjunction with the 57 Muslim states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Americans, he added, were shocked by the draft, with one U.S. representative even saying, "the only good thing about it is its brevity."

The proposal urges the council to "endorse" the report and its recommendations in full - language, the official said, that essentially obligates UN members to enforce the recommendations, including referral to the ICC. Jerusalem and Washington therefore plan to focus their efforts on getting the council to substitute less obligatory wording, such as "noting" the report rather than "endorsing" it.

The United States gave Israel a document defining the Obama administration's own red lines on the report last week. These include keeping the report from leaving the Human Rights Council, nixing any measures that would undermine Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism, and letting Israel's own law enforcement system conduct any criminal probes necessitated by the Gaza war.

The document also said the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is Washington's top priority, and it will therefore not support any move that would impede peace talks. Since adoption of the PA resolution would almost certainly cause Israel to refuse to resume negotiations, the United States can be counted on to fight it, the Foreign Ministry official said.

At Tuesday's council meeting in Geneva, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael H. Posner criticized the report and rejected the suggestion that it be taken up by the Security Council.

"We disagree sharply with many of the report's assessments and its recommendations and believe it to be deeply flawed," Posner said. "If this standard were applied in every conflict situation around the world where there are alleged violations, then the role of the Human Rights Council would be dramatically different."

However, the PA's proposal is supported by many non-Muslim Asian and African states that belong to the Nonaligned Movement.