Poor Richard Goldstone must be plotzing. He spent months of his life compiling one of the most painstakingly researched dossiers of Israeli (and Palestinian) human rights violations and potential war crimes ever; and now the Palestinian victims have suspended their call for justice:
In a startling shift, the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council dropped its efforts to forward a report accusing Israel of possible war crimes to the Security Council, under pressure from the United States, diplomats said Thursday.
The Americans argued that pushing the report now would derail the Middle East peace process that they are trying to revive, diplomats said.
“We don’t want to create an obstacle for them,” Ibrahim Khraishi, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said by telephone from Geneva, where the Human Rights Council is based. “We want to get a strong resolution to deal with the report in a good manner to get a benefit from it.”
What an utter waste. And imagine what the poor Gazans must be thinking who mistakenly believed they might finally get their day in court after enduring a merciless Israeli assault last December-January that killed 1,400 including at least 350 children. I simply don’t know what the Palestinians can be thinking or what they were told that persuaded them to suspend their complaint.
The whole episode is utterly baffling. On the face of it (and admittedly this is a dangerous position from which to make guesses about what happened), Israel has won yet another victory in its jousting both with the Palestinians and the Obama administration. First, Obama caved on the settlement freeze issue. Then Obama placed a nice little gift in his lap by ballyhooing the “discovery” of a nefarious Iranian nuclear facility in Qom. Now, Bibi’s extraordinary threat to completely end the peace process unless the Goldstone probe was halted has been rewarded with the ultimate vindication:
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned the Palestinians and international powers earlier Thursday that any action to advance the report would be a denial of Israel’s “right to self-defense” and would kill any chance of peace talks.
Mr. Netanyahu, speaking during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, said that any international endorsement of the report would “strike a severe blow to the war against terrorism.”
But most immediately, he said, it would “strike a fatal blow to the peace process, because Israel will no longer be able to take additional steps and take risks for peace if its right to self-defense is denied.”
Given that the U.S. diplomats echoed Bibi’s claim in their statement above, one wonders whether Obama has taken yet another “nosedive for peace.” You’d have to be forgiven for starting to believe that the U.S. administration is the dancing bear being led through his paces by his master Bibi. Not to mention that the Fatah rump government and its representative to the UN Human Rights Council appears to have sold out Hamas and the residents of Gaza yet again–and for what?
One wonders what dickering went on behind the scenes. Who won and who lost? Who gave up something and who gained something? What assurances did the Palestinians get, if any, from the Americans before they withdrew? Did the Americans bargain for anything from the Israelis in return for supporting their goal of suppressing the report?
To be candid, the Goldstone Report has not exactly been suppressed. Technically, consideration of the report can be resumed at the UN Human Right Council’s next meeting in March. But frankly, as time recedes it’s very possible that Gaza will fade from people’s memories and it will become that much harder to drum up interest and support for a new round of debate and a new push for consideration of the Report by the Security Council.
This comment by the Palestinian representative seems little more than wishful thinking:
Mr. Khraishi, the Palestinian ambassador, said that if a resolution were passed now insisting that the General Assembly or the Security Council deal with the matter, as the report itself recommends, it would most likely face an American veto. A delay gives the Israelis and Palestinians time to take up another recommendation in the report: that both sides set up independent investigation panels to look into possible war crimes.
“I don’t think that the Americans or the Israelis or anybody can escape from the realities that Goldstone collected — not Hamas either,” Mr. Khraishi said
What is this man thinking? That the Israelis, with the heat now off, will turn around and appoint a serious, independent panel to investigate its potential war crimes? Bibi has already nixed the idea publicly. What would make him change his mind now? If he doesn’t think the Israelis can “escape from the realities of Goldstone” let him just watch. Harry Houdini had nothin’ on Israel when it wants to do a disappearing act in the face of unpleasant international charges. They’ll likely slip out of this one like a pair of broken handcuffs.
I think the Palestinians have taken a calculated gamble in withdrawing and I’m not sure what they’ve gained and what assurances they’ve received. Has the U.S., for example agreed to recognize a Palestinian state that might be declared if Israel balks at entering final status negotiations? I don’t know, I’m just speculating.