Today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council finally endorsed the Goldstone Report, after an earlier Keystone Cops deliberation failed to do so. The panel investigated war crimes during the Gaza war earlier this year. Oddly though, the Council refused to include in its endorsement any reference to possible crimes of the Palestinians during that conflict, singling out only Israel for fault. Such one-sidedness provided Israel with further ammunition to claim the Council (and by extension, the Report) is one-sided and prejudiced against it. That caused Richard Goldstone to criticize the Council.
The endorsement sets several processes in motion. First, it directs both Israel and Hamas pursue a serious investigation of the incidents portrayed in the investigation. If they do not, the Council has called for referrals to either the Security Council or International Criminal Court. Presumably, the U.S. would veto consideration of the Report by the Council. I presume though that it could not prevent the ICC from taking up the matter if the latter was referred to it and it chose to do so. Goldstone has also suggested that individual countries which are signatories of the ICC treaty could also pursue cases against individuals for their culpability for actions raised in the Report.
It is hard to imagine a hard-right Israeli government (or for Hamas for that matter) undertaking a competent investigation even under such pressure. But if the Obama administration and EU join in pressuring for this, who knows what could happen. What seems clear is that if Israel refuses to investigate, that some international body will do so. That is an outcome over which Israel will have little control. This further elevates the jeopardy for IDF senior officers who could be nabbed during international travel in any number of countries which might take up the case. This makes it lately that at some point, Israel may have its own Pinochet incident to deal with.
And once the ice is broken by one case, it will be that much easier to mount others and then the floodgates are likely to open. Israel has desperately tried to staunch the flow by placing fingers in the dam, with foreign ministry lawyers preparing briefs for this eventuality. But my judgment is that it is only a matter of time, unless a peace agreement comes first, before Israelis (and presumably Palestinians as well) will be sitting before the bar of justice. There should be no impunity, as there has been till now, for either side in this matter.
I continue to be amused, in a dark sort of way, by the Israeli claim that Goldstone is “one-sided.” There would have been one solution for that–Israel cooperating with the investigation. If Israel wanted the world to hear its perspective it should have cooperated. By not doing so, it has lost the right to the one-sided claim (unless it wishes to be laughed out of the box in making it).