Amid strong Israeli opposition, the UN General Assembly prepared yesterday to ask Israel and the Palestinians to launch credible, independent probes of alleged war crimes committed during the Gaza War nearly a year ago.
The 192-member body was to vote on a non-binding text pushed by Arab states that endorses a UN report calling for investigations “that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards.”
The text also asks UN chief Ban Ki-moon to monitor the implementation of the draft resolution and report back to the General Assembly within three months with “a view to considering further action, if necessary, by the relevant UN organs and bodies, including by the Security Council.”
Israel has launched a vigorous campaign to try to stop adoption of the Arab-sponsored text in the Assembly, where the major powers cannot exercise the veto right they wield in the Security Council.
Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon accused the Palestinians on Tuesday of “manipulating international institutions in order to hurt and criticize Israel.”
The Arab text faces certain opposition from the US, the Jewish state’s staunchest ally, and possibly from some European countries that see it as one-sided.
But the sponsors of the draft can count on broad support among nonaligned, African and Muslim-majority countries, which make up the majority of the UN membership.
The Arab resolution essentially backed key recommendations in a UN report by a panel led by former judge Richard Goldstone on both Israel and Palestinian militants’ conduct during the 22-day Gaza conflict that ended in January, killing some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
Goldstone, a South African Jew and respected former international prosecutor, recommended that Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas — which rules the tiny coastal enclave of Gaza — face possible prosecution before the International Criminal Court in The Hague if they fail to conduct credible investigations within six months.
His report was endorsed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council last month and the UN Security Council mentioned it during its monthly debate on the Middle East on Oct. 13 without taking any action.
The US House of Representatives meanwhile on Tuesday adopted a sharply worded but symbolic resolution urging US President Barack Obama to fight UN endorsement of the Goldstone report’s findings.
Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution crafted by Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen that calls the report “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.”
It also urges opposition to the report’s findings in any international forum.
“It’s unfortunate that the United Nations deals with Israel, in my opinion, in a totally biased and unbalanced way. And it is the only country in the world, Israel, that has a special focus by the United Nations,” Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.
But in a letter sent to Hoyer and Ros-Lehtinen, Goldstone said the congressional resolution was riddled with “serious factual inaccuracies and instances where information and statements are taken grossly out of context.”
He said the text ignored the fact that he pressed the Human Rights Council to ensure the probe’s mandate was broadened to include “rocket and mortar attacks on Israel” and that the final report highlighted “the serious findings made against Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups.”