Goldstone 'Changes Mind,' So What Now?


Two years ago, Judge Richard Goldstone issued a U.N. report accusing Israel of deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians during its three-week operation in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009. The Goldstone Report was a disaster for Israel’s public image around the world, emboldening the country’s detractors to launch new public campaigns to boycott, isolate, and delegitimize the Jewish state. Because of Goldstone, several Israeli leaders even stopped traveling abroad for fear of being arrested for their alleged “war crimes.”

But in a recent Washington Post op-ed, Goldstone now acknowledged that his report’s central claim was wrong. “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document,” he wrote.

Not surprisingly, the South African jurist found evidence from Israel’s investigations into over 400 allegations of misconduct proved that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” by Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead.

Also not surprising is that while Israel has investigated and even punished some of its soldiers for their actions, the terrorist “government” of Hamas has done absolutely nothing of the sort to probe its indiscriminate shelling of nearby Israeli towns. The Iran-backed organization itself has even admitted that up to 700 of the 1,400 Palestinians killed during Cast Lead were in fact fighters from Hamas and other Gaza-based terror cells.

Meanwhile, Israel is urging the U.N. to officially retract the Goldstone Report – and rightfully so. Goldstone however, has said that he has no intentions of shelving his flawed report, telling the AP he has “no reason to believe any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time.”

Strange, since “reconsidering” is exactly what Goldstone did to his main conclusion in hisWashington Post essay.

Regardless, the Goldstone’s “edits” are only a minor victory for Israel, which now could be facing even greater diplomatic challenges.

This past week, Israel’s diplomatic-security chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad warned that the Palestinian Authority is “preparing for an international assault on Israel” for after September in the United Nations that is “no less grave than a war.” 

Gilad was referencing Palestinian leadership’s plans to skip negotiating with Israel and instead go straight to the U.N. to unilaterally seek recognition by the General Assembly for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

Facing a likely U.S. veto in the Security Council, the Palestinians hope to impose a U.N. resolution invoking the “Uniting for Peace” procedure in the General Assembly. This rarely-used process would overcome disagreement within the Security Council by deferring the votes to an emergency special session of the General Assembly. The Palestinian Authority then hopes it will garner enough U.N. votes to declare the borders of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, shoving Israel into the position of “occupying” the territory of a fellow U.N.-member state.

While such a resolution would unlikely have the authority to actually alter the status of the disputed territories, its precedent could be used to undermine the basis of the peace process.

Yet, Palestinian leaders want to accomplish exactly that and achieve what the Goldstone Report did – isolate Israel. Even more, this effort underscores the Palestinian leadership’s continued unwillingness to engage in serious negotiations with Israel and to make the controversial compromises needed by both sides for a genuine solution.

If the PA is truly keen on accomplishing statehood, its first step shouldn’t be to the U.N., but to its future neighbor. This means immediately entering direct negotiations with Israel and solving some of the practical, political issues such as land swaps and borders. It also means answering personal status questions such as whether the new Palestinian state must be Judenrein, as PA President Mahmoud Abbas and fellow leaders continue to demand.

At the same time, Washington should take a larger role by finally putting serious pressure on the Palestinian leadership to come to the table. The PA is one of the world’s largest recipients of foreign assistance and depends on Western (and often Israeli) military aid to stave off Hamas. Were the U.S. and its Western allies to make it clear to the PA that they will not tolerate continuedincitement to violence and unilateral diplomatic initiatives to corner Israel, perhaps, just as Goldstone did, the Palestinian leadership will reconsider.

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