Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman denounces ‘propaganda and bias’
Israel refused to accept the findings of a highly critical UN inquiry into the Gaza war and said today it would launch a diplomatic offensive to prevent any risk of prosecutions.
No independent inquiry into the military’s conduct during the war last January would be held, a clear rejection of one primary recommendation from the UN report.
The inquiry, headed by a former South African judge, Richard Goldstone, delivered a detailed and damning criticism of the war, accusing both Israel and armed Palestinian groups, notably Hamas, of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. It was by far the most serious international inquiry into the three-week war, which left 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead and which triggered a wave of criticism across the world.
“This report was conceived in sin and is the product of a union between propaganda and bias,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. “Israel is a country with a fiercely independent judiciary … Everything done by the military in Israel is open to judicial review by the independent judiciary.”
Israel had refused to co-operate with the inquiry, not letting the team enter Israel or the occupied West Bank. It said the UN human rights council, which commissioned the inquiry, was biased against Israel.
“The mandate was biased from the beginning and it would have been a mistake to give credibility to a mission that has more in common with a kangaroo court than it does with a serious investigation,” Regev said.
For its part, Hamas also rejected the criticism. “The Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance were in a position of self-defence and not of attack. One cannot compare the simple capabilities of the resistance with the great strength of the occupation,” said Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader and former Palestinian prime minister.
After the inquiry was published yesterday evening, a legal team from Israel’s foreign ministry met with other government officials to prepare an analysis of the UN report. Netanyahu reportedly held meetings into the night on the impact of the findings.
Israel is concerned that, when the UN human rights council discusses the report later this month, it could agree to pass it to the UN security council. The security council could then decide to pass the findings on to the international criminal court, where arrest warrants could be issued ahead of prosecutions.
Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, who is on a visit to Washington, said he would meet the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, to minimise the impact of the report before it reaches the UN security council. Other senior figures from the Israeli government are expected to begin a round of telephone calls with ministers from other governments, particularly the five permanent members of the security council, to head off any decision that might lead to prosecutions. The Ha’aretz newspaper said priority calls would go out to EU nations, in the hope of influencing the debate at the UN human rights council in Geneva.