Israel firm in opposing report on war crimes
JERUSALEM - Israel hardened its opposition yesterday to international calls for an independent inquiry into its fierce offensive against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip last winter, saying it would urge the United States to prevent the issue from advancing at the United Nations.
The decision came at a special Cabinet meeting called to discuss a United Nations report that has accused Israel and Palestinian militants of committing war crimes during the three-week operation. The report, which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council last week, recommends war crimes proceedings if the sides do not conduct credible independent investigations into their actions.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a fierce critic of the report, blocked a planned discussion yesterday on whether to launch an investigation. “There is no need for a committee of inquiry,’’ said Barak, according to a statement from his office.
The UN report, overseen by respected South African jurist Richard Goldstone, has created an uproar in Israel. Officials say the Human Rights Council, which includes many Arab and Muslim countries, is hopelessly biased against Israel.
But Goldstone’s credentials as a former war crimes prosecutor in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, his Jewish faith, and his close ties to Israel have made it hard for Israel to ignore his findings.