Source: Report Won't Halt Peace Talks

The endorsement of the Goldstone report by the UN Human Rights Council on Friday will not postpone negotiations with the Palestinians but will complicate making territorial concessions and make it harder to reach an agreement, a source close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday.

After the UN body in Geneva voted to endorse the 575-page document compiled by South African jurist Richard Goldstone on alleged war crimes by both Israel and the Palestinians during last winter's Gaza offensive, Netanyahu convened a team of ministers and officials to examine the report.

Sources close to Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel must prepare for a protracted struggle against the document.

He told them to "delegitimize the deligitimization," adding that "Goldstone was a symptom of a wider phenomenon .... The UN has returned to the dark days during which it equated Zionism with racism," the prime minister added, saying the international community supported a moral norm of "retreat, take fire and remain silent."

According to Netanyahu, this formula should be changed to "retreat, take fire and give fire." In the report on Operation Cast Lead, Goldstone's researchers accused Israel of using disproportionate force, deliberately targeting civilians, using Palestinians as human shields and destroying civilian infrastructure to root out Gaza rocket squads.

"The delegitimization [of Israel] must be delegitimized," Netanyahu said at the meetings Friday. He said the battle against the report, which accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, would be legal and diplomatic, adding that Israel should take appropriate measures to oppose it.

U.S. to favor softened resolution on Goldstone

Following the vote by the United Nation's Human Rights Council, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a joint letter to Netanyahu, acknowledging Israel's right to self-defense while urging it to investigate its own actions in Operation Cast Lead.

Senior diplomats in New York, meanwhile, said the United States would prefer to support a moderately-phrased resolution on the Goldstone report by the UN Security Council, rather than use its veto power to nix such a resolution.

The Human Rights Council recommended that the report be discussed by the Security Council, but it remains unclear whether this will happen. The White House said on Friday that both Israel and the Palestinians should study the report.

The letter by Brown and Sarkozy acknowledged the sensitivity of the Goldstone report in Israel and encouraged Jerusalem to handle it in a way that supports progress in the Middle East.

Israel's right to defend itself was stressed in the letter, which included an invitation to Netanyahu to visit Europe for talks.

In Geneva, 25 countries voted in favor of endorsing the report, including Russia, China, India, Brazil and Argentina. Six countries, including the United States, voted against the report, while the representatives of 11 countries abstained. The representatives of five countries, including France and Britain, did not participate in the vote.

Netanyahu also used Spanish Prime Minister Joze Zapatero's visit to raise the issue, and asked Spain's foreign minister, Miguel Moratinos, to request that other diplomats not endorse the report. According to some reports, the Angolan foreign minister, Assuncao Afonso dos Anjos, said he would not endorse the report.