For months, the Israeli human rights community has been beseeching its government to launch a credible, independent Israeli inquiry as the alternative to being hauled in front of the international community. Nine Israeli human rights NGOs responded to the Goldstone report by repeating this call and suggesting the Israeli government take the Goldstone findings seriously.
Such an inquiry would not be unheard of – prominent precedents exist such as the Kahan Commission Report on Sabra and Shatila in 1982, the Winograd Commission Report on the events of military engagement in Lebanon 2006 and the Or Commission Report with regard to the treatment of Israeli-Arabs. There was even the SELA Disengagement Authority Report in 2006 to investigate the functioning of the administration established to absorb Gaza settlers following the withdrawal.
Will a UN mission manage to nudge Israel in ways that the reports by human rights NGOs, including Israeli ones, failed to do? The instinctive answer would be no. Israel, if anything, has entered into more of a hunker-down mode with its highly dismissive response and has a track record of deep suspicion towards the UN. Repetitions of the mantra that the IDF is the most moral army in the world are again being heard from Jerusalem. Yet closer examination of these first 48 hours since the report’s publication suggest the picture is more nuanced. One of Israel’s most prominent, uncritical and rightist commentators, Ben Dror Yemini in the daily Maariv suggested that the lesson perhaps was that Israel should have ended the war after the first 48 hours of the strike. Haaretz’s Aluf Benn argued that Israel would not be able to act in such a way again after this report, a comment quite widely echoed.
While official Israel is now focusing on out-manoeuvring the implementation of Goldstone’s recommendations, it is also coming closer to a recognition that there may be consequences and repercussions for what happened during the Gaza operation. Israel’s image was already tarnished but the attention that a report of such magnitude attracts and the unimpeachable credibility and standing of its lead author, Goldstone, may cause many who dismissed previous reports to take a second look. This is likely to be a cause for particular division and concern within Jewish communities. Those groups who unquestioningly attack the report’s veracity find themselves further alienated from significant swaths of Jewish opinion, especially among the younger generation. But it is in the arena of practical judicial consequences and of implications for future behaviour that the Goldstone report could have most impact. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — If the Goldstone report [PDF] is to have some diplomatic teeth, that will depend on the Obama administration’s willingness not to block the UN Security Council’s consideration and implementation of the report’s recommendations — namely, that absent an effective Israeli investigation, the case should be handed over to the International Criminal Court.
Once again, the earliest signs indicate that the United States will retain what has become its standard position: to function as Israel’s lawyer.
American “legal council”, in the form of the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, has already suggested that the report is flawed. “We have very serious concerns about many of the recommendations in the report,” Rice said on Thursday.
In spite of the seriousness of the report’s conclusions — that the Israeli government has committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity — the fact that the Obama administration appears ready to provide Israel with diplomatic and legal cover should come as no surprise.
What was president-elect Obama’s reaction to the onslaught in Gaza while it was happening? Silence.
Where did candidate Obama plant his moral and emotive flag in the wider conflict? Alongside the worried parents of Sderot.
What have Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell’s findings been during his trips to see the war’s aftermath? None. He has never been to Gaza.
What have Secretary of State Clinton’s efforts to help in the reconstruction of Gaza accomplished? Nothing.
With that kind of track record, is the Obama administration now about to take a stand as a stalwart defender of international law?
I don’t think so.
A leaked UN report has warned that Israel’s continued economic blockade of Gaza and lengthy delays in delivering humanitarian aid are “devastating livelihoods” and causing gradual “de-development”.
For more than two years, Gaza has been under severe Israeli restrictions, preventing all exports and confining imports to a limited supply of humanitarian goods.
Now, eight months after the end of the Gaza war, much reconstruction work is still to be done because materials are either delayed or banned from entering the strip.
The UN report, obtained by the Guardian, reveals the delays facing the delivery of even the most basic aid. On average, it takes 85 days to get shelter kits into Gaza, 68 days to deliver health and paediatric hygiene kits, and 39 days for household items such as bedding and kitchen utensils. [continued…]