JERUSALEM — Israeli leaders yesterday welcomed an admission by Richard Goldstone — a Jewish UN investigator who became persona non grata in the Jewish state — that war crimes accusations contained in his report on Israel’s offensive in Gaza two years ago should be reconsidered.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the United Nations to nullify Goldstone’s report. Defense officials urged the international community to rewrite the laws of war.
Commentators alternated between attacking Goldstone for causing what they said was irreparable damage to Israel and praising him for admitting he made a mistake.
“There are very few instances in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel. This happened in the case of the Goldstone report,’’ Netanyahu told his Cabinet.
Urban warfare has long vexed the Israeli military, which for decades was dominant over the Arab nation’s numerically superior armies but has struggled with foes in crowded refugee camps, dense cities, and villages lined with cinderblock homes in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and southern Lebanon.
In December 2008, Israel launched an offensive against Gaza, a densely populated strip of land that borders southwest Israel, in response to years of Palestinian rocket fire.
In three weeks of fighting, some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of civilians, while 13 Israelis died.
Israel said the civilian death toll was unintentional and said Gaza’s Hamas rulers hid militants in populated areas.
It refused to cooperate with Goldstone’s investigation, commissioned by the United Nations Human Rights Council, a body with a history of anti-Israel declarations.
The Goldstone report, released in September 2009, concluded that both Israel and Hamas committed potential war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.