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entries tagged with: Richard Goldstone


Bibi’s Goldstone dilemma

To investigate or not?

Leslie SusserWorld
Published: 30 October 2009

Richard Goldstone, left, shown meeting on June 1 with Ghazi Hamad of Hamas at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, echoes many by saying Israel can end the international inquiry into his report on the Gaza war by establishing an independent commission. Rahim Khatib/Flash90/JTA

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing one of the most acute dilemmas since his return to power last March: How to respond to the U.N.-sponsored Goldstone report’s charges that Israel may have committed war crimes in the Gaza war last January.

Pressure is mounting to establish an independent Israeli commission of inquiry. Key international players including the United States, Britain, and France — even Richard Goldstone, the author of the U.N. report — have intimated that if Israel sets up a credible civilian inquiry, in Goldstone’s own words, it “would be the end of the matter.”

Ending the Goldstone process would constitute a considerable diplomatic gain for Israel, and several members of the Israeli government, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, are advising Netanyahu to go that route.

But Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Israel Defense Forces are strongly against such an inquiry. They argue that a civilian-led investigation could cause chaos in the army, with senior officers looking for lawyers instead of focusing on military planning and training.

On Sunday, after convening a meeting of his top advisers, senior ministers, and the top IDF brass, Netanyahu made some initial decisions.

He promised the army that whatever commission was finally decided on, no officers or soldiers would be called upon to testify. He also ordered a team of professionals under Justice Minister Yaacov Neeman to come up with a set of proposed legal, diplomatic, and public relations counterpoints to the Goldstone report as soon as possible.

On the commission of inquiry, Netanyahu seems to be leaning toward a compromise proposal by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. To keep the IDF happy, Mazuz has proposed relying on its internal probes into the allegations of war crimes, but adding credibility by establishing a committee of jurists and ex-generals to scrutinize the IDF’s work to make sure nothing was swept under the carpet.

The committee then would translate the findings into legal language to build a case against the Goldstone report in the international arena. Of the 36 specific allegations of possible war crimes by Israel outlined in the report, the IDF already has investigated 26.

Mazuz also proposes that cases in which the military police launch criminal investigations against individuals now come under the purview of the Attorney General’s office. In other words, Mazuz wants to take the IDF’s work and “civilianize” it through overarching civilian scrutiny — but without the civilian authority being able to subpoena witnesses or interrogate soldiers.

Israel, Mazuz argues, needs a credible legal mechanism as a counterweight to Goldstone.

Not all members of the government are convinced his model will be well received on the international stage. Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan of the Likud Party and Avishai Braverman and Yitzhak Herzog of Labor argue that an independent commission with a much wider mandate is necessary. Otherwise it will look as though Israel has something to hide.

They argue that no one will take seriously an investigation carried out primarily by the IDF — the very body facing charges. An independent commission with a wide mandate would be far more credible and convincing than one restricted to an evaluation of IDF findings.

Moreover, in the context of a wide-ranging, open civilian investigation, the IDF still would be able to present video footage and other evidence it has to refute the charges in the Goldstone report, and to do so on a far more appropriate stage.

There is one other argument for a civilian rather than IDF-dominated probe. A prestigious Israeli committee headed by a former justice not only would be able to close the international file on Goldstone, it would be able to present the international community with proposals for a revision of the laws of war when fighting militia groups are embedded in civilian population centers. This could make it much clearer what armies like the IDF in Gaza, or the Americans in Afghanistan or Iraq, can or cannot do against enemies using human shields in urban areas.

It also would highlight the key question ignored by the Goldstone committee: How is a modern state supposed to defend its civilians against rockets fired from inside heavily populated urban areas?

Herzog maintains that Goldstone’s most serious allegation was not aimed at the IDF but at the government of Israel: that the government actually ordered the destruction of the civilian infrastructure in Gaza in a deliberate campaign to target the people of Gaza. IDF probes cannot possibly touch on the allegation, thus Herzog argues that a much wider investigation is needed to refute it.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai says all that would be necessary to show how wrongheaded Goldstone’s claim is would be to make public the logs of the cabinet meetings during the war.

Herzog agrees that it won’t take much to discredit Goldstone on this point.

“If the claim is investigated,” he said, “it will be shown to be absurd.”


An open letter to Richard Goldstone

Abraham H. FoxmanOp-Ed
Published: 06 November 2009

Condemn report, welcome Goldstone


Misplaced honor


Responding to the top 10 anti-Israel lies


Fool’s Gold(stone) redux


Goldstone’s apology and Samantha Power’s problem


Goldstone’s retraction should be a watershed for the world and Israel

Published: 08 April 2011

Now that Goldstone has changed his mind, what’s next?

What happens now with the Goldstone Report may well be up to Goldstone.

Richard Goldstone’s April 2 Op-Ed in the Washington Post disavowing his earlier assumption that Israel had committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity during the 2009 Gaza war has left pro-Israel activists wondering: What next?

Moves already are afoot to get the United Nations to retract the U.N. Human Rights Council’s endorsement of the Goldstone report on the monthlong 2008-09 Gaza war. The Israeli government and an array of Jewish groups have issued such calls.

The problem is with the mechanics. According to the council, the next move is up to Goldstone: He must not only submit a written request to retract the report, but get the three other members of his investigatory committee to sign on as well. Goldstone, who has not talked to reporters since his Op-Ed was published, did not return a request from JTA for comment.

A spokesman for the American Jewish Committee, which is accredited at the United Nations, told JTA that his organization spent most of Monday and Tuesday trying to figure out how to work around the logistics.

U.N. Human Rights Council spokesman Cedric Sapey told Israel’s daily Yediot Achronot on Monday that Goldstone’s Op-Ed represented nothing more than his personal opinion, not that of the committee. Sapey also told The Associated Press that Goldstone would have to submit a formal request signed by all committee members to withdraw the report. The committee was disbanded after the report was filed in August 2009.

Last month, the council voted to send the report to the U.N. General Assembly with the recommendation that the U.N. Security Council turn it over to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for possible prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The question for pro-Israel organizations is how to stop that process and force the United Nations to reverse course.

Meanwhile, groups that criticized Israel’s actions in the Gaza war are saying not so fast.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote in a letter to The New York Times that the significance of Goldstone’s Op-Ed is being overblown.

“As the judge who led an investigation into the Gaza conflict, he stands by most of his report,” Roth wrote. “Mr. Goldstone has not repudiated his panel’s findings that Israel committed numerous serious violations of the laws of war.”

He concluded that “Israel must still mount a credible investigation of its overall actions in the war.”

Israeli groups that advocate for Palestinian rights echoed that call even as they welcomed Goldstone’s finding that Israel did not intentionally target civilians or commit war crimes.

Hagai El-Ad, director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, known as ACRI, said the triumphalist tone that Israelis are taking in the wake of the Op-Ed is discouraging because it’s a sign that efforts at self-examination would be put to rest.

“That’s extremely troublesome,” he said.

ACRI and B’Tselem, an Israeli group that advocates for Palestinian rights, are still pressing Israel to investigate dozens of cases involving alleged abuses by individuals cited in the Goldstone Report. Only three cases are known to have been prosecuted so far.

“This take-it-or-leave-it, this kind of bombshell Goldstone dropped both times is problematic,” said Uri Zaki, the Washington director for B’Tselem. “Our criticism when it came out was that conclusions of war crimes, crimes against humanity, were not substantiated in the report itself. Those bottom lines were problematic, and now retreating from those conclusions is problematic.”

On Tuesday, Goldstone’s Op-Ed came up in the meeting between President Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres, who later told reporters that the Op-Ed represented something of a vindication for a position shared only by the United States and Israel — that the Goldstone Report’s original conclusions were a calumny.

“I thanked the president for standing with us on Goldstone, for being the only one to stand with us on Goldstone,” Peres said at a news conference following his meeting with Obama.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday that Washington officials read Goldstone’s Op-Ed “with great interest.”

“We’ve made clear from when the Goldstone Report was initially presented and maintained ever since that we didn’t see any evidence that the Israeli government had intentionally targeted civilians or otherwise engaged in any war crimes,” Toner told reporters. “And now that we see that Justice Goldstone has reached the same conclusion, and then also we believe that Israel has since undertaken credible internal processes to assess its own conduct of hostilities, and I think that’s something that he acknowledged as well.”

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office told The Jerusalem Post that Britain does not support a retraction of the Goldstone Report.

“Justice Goldstone has not made such a call, and he has not elaborated on his views surrounding the various other allegations contained in the report — allegations which we firmly believe require serious follow-up by the parties to the conflict,” a Foreign Office spokesman told the newspaper on Monday night.

Absent action by Goldstone, the United States holds the key to retracting the report because it is the only nation with the clout to make it happen — especially now that the Human Rights Council has referred the matter to the General Assembly, said David Michaels, B’nai B’rith’s director for United Nations and intercommunal affairs.

“It will have to come from the U.S.,” Michaels said. “I’ll leave it to the diplomats to explore the channels.”

Reversing the course of the report is critical both because its adoption in 2009 spurred forward Palestinian Authority plans to achieve recognition of statehood unilaterally, and because its conclusions threaten counterterrorism not just in Israel, but throughout the West, Michaels noted.

Meanwhile, Yediot Achronot reported Tuesday that Goldstone has accepted a personal invitation from Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai to visit Israel in July and tour its southern communities, which have been besieged by Hamas rockets. Yishai said the invitation came up when he called Goldstone to thank him for his reassessment.

JTA Wire Service


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