- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2009

UNITED NATIONS | Diplomats mainly from the Islamic world used the monthly session of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to criticize Israel by citing a U.N. report charging Israel and Hamas with war crimes.

“The pursuit of accountability would, in the long term, better serve the cause of peace,” said Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki.

Israel responded that the report in question, by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, denied it the right of self-defense.

At issue is Judge Goldstone’s report on the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 Israeli offensive on Gaza, in response to Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli cities.

The report said both sides committed possible war crimes against civilians.

The Goldstone report was commissioned by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, which will begin its own debate on the report Thursday.

At least a half-dozen speakers on Wednesday demanded that Israel be referred to the International Criminal Court, which hears cases of global significance when the relevant countries are unable to undertake their own prosecutions.

Israel has not signed onto the court statute, meaning that the only way the United Nations can refer the Goldstone report to the court is through the Security Council.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Alejandro Wolff criticized the report as unbalanced and said the debate should be held at the Human Rights Council in Geneva and not the Security Council.

Chief U.N. political adviser Lynn Pascoe urged Israel to conduct its own independent investigation into charges made in the report and elsewhere.

“Now, more than ever, it is vital that politics is made credible, and those who try to undermine politics by changing facts on the ground or resorting to violence are not allowed to set the agenda,” Mr. Pascoe told the council.

“If we do not go forward decisively towards the two-state solution, we may go back to more violence, suffering and the loss of hope,” he said.

Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gabriela Shalev, rejected the report, saying the Goldstone team “was given too wide a mandate, and failed to fully respect any government’s right to protect its people.”

Israel refused to receive the Goldstone team and did not cooperate with its investigation.

Gaza, Ms. Shalev said, was now occupied by the Islamic militant group Hamas, “an organization that has launched attacks from within schools, mosques and hospitals.”

Estimates of the Gaza death toll run as high as 1,400, but a key issue is civilian casualties among Palestinians. Israel estimates the civilian death toll at 295, while the Palestinians put the number at 926.

Thirteen Israelis died during the war.

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