Israel calls for Goldstone report to be retracted

Richard Goldstone visiting Gaza in the wake of Operation Cast Lead

Richard Goldstone visiting Gaza in the wake of Operation Cast Lead

The Israeli government has called for an official retraction of the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza following Judge Richard Goldstone's admission that, contrary to his original report, Israel did not intentionally target civilians and the IDF had properly investigated any allegations of misconduct by its soldiers.

Judge Goldstone's column in last Friday's Washington Post prompted President Shimon Peres to call upon the former South African judge to "apologise to the state of Israel."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that the National Security Council would be setting up a special committee that would act to cancel the report: "We will make sure that justice will be done."

IDF Attorney General, Major General Avichai Mendelblitt, said that "he was not surprised" by Judge Goldstone's retraction, saying that "it was a result of the work we have done to investigate every single allegation." The IDF's legal corps and military police have investigated over 150 allegations of misconduct during the Gaza operation, including 36 separate allegations mentioned in the Goldstone report, and opened 50 official criminal investigations. Nine of these investigations are still ongoing; most have been closed for lack of evidence. Two have resulted in convictions and one has resulted in an indictment for unlawful killing and the case is in its initial stages at the military court. Details of the legal procedures undertaken by the IDF were supplied to two follow-up commissions appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate how Israel and the Palestinians had dealt with the Goldstone Report. The second commission, headed by former American Judge Mary McGowan Davis, delivered its report two weeks ago and found that "Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza." This led to Judge Goldstone's article last week.

A senior IDF source said this week that, following the findings, "the risk of arrest for IDF officers abroad has significantly receded since no claim can be made now that Israel has failed to investigate its soldiers and there are no grounds anymore for an arrest warrant."

Despite the public retraction of the commission's chairman, his colleague on the four-member panel, Pakistani lawyer Hila Jilani, insisted that the report was still valid. In an interview, Ms Jilani said that nothing "would invalidate the UN report" and that the "UN cannot allow impunity to remain, and will have to act if it wants to remain a credible international governing body."

A spokesperson for the UNHRC in Geneva which initially issued the mandate for the Goldstone commission also said that "the UN will not revoke a report on the basis of an article in a newspaper. The views Mr Goldstone expressed are his own personal views."

While the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem does not have high hopes for an official cancellation of the Goldstone report, a senior diplomat said this week that "McGowan Davis' verdict and Goldstone's op-ed have probably ended any threat that the International Criminal Court will act against Israel on Operation Cast Lead."

Last updated: 12:28pm, April 7 2011