The Jerusalem Post
October 23, 2009 - 12:00am

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke on the telephone with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon late Thursday on several Middle East issues, among them the Goldstone report which alleges that Israel may have committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last winter.

Lieberman told Ban "a distorted reality" has been created wherein international forums give an automatic majority to countries where concern for human rights is a very low priority. Lieberman cited Cuba, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as countries making the international arena "hypocritical and prejudiced."

According to the foreign minister, the world needs to consider ways to "correct the situation so that a stable and balanced" international system is created.

Lieberman expressed to Ban his hopes that the secretary general would not transfer the UN Human Right Council decision to adopt the Goldstone report to be discussed in the Security Council or the General Assembly. "It is impossible that the Palestinians will negotiate with Israel in the local arena and fight against Israel in the global arena," he told Ban.

On Thursday, jurist Richard Goldstone, who headed the commission that penned the report, challenged the US to justify its claims that his commission's findings were flawed and biased.

"I have yet to hear from the Obama administration what the flaws in the report that they have identified are. I would be happy to respond to them, if and when I know what they are," Goldstone said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

"The Obama administration joined our recommendation calling for full and good-faith investigations, both in Israel and in Gaza (by Hamas), but said that the report was flawed," said Goldstone.

Goldstone went on to say he believed most critics had not even read the report.

"I've no doubt, many of the critics - the overwhelming majority of critics - have not read the report," he said. "And, you know, what proves that, I think, is that the level of criticism does not go to the substance of the report."

The jurist stressed that his commission did not question Israel's right to self-defense in carrying out a military operation, but rather focused on investigating the way in which the IDF used force.

When asked about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's initiative to change the international law concerning states fighting terrorist groups, Goldstone said Israel was apparently "clutching at straws."

"I think it's sad... Israel is clutching at straws. International law can't be changed just because one side doesn't like the laws of war," Goldstone said.

"I think it's wrong, very unfortunate and inappropriate," Goldstone said of the Israeli response to the report compiled by the UN fact-finding commission he led.

When asked whether an Israeli probe into the IDF's conduct during the Gaza operation could be trusted, Goldstone expressed his confidence in the Israeli legal system and experts.

"I've got no doubt at all that if the Israeli government was prepared to set up an independent commission to investigate and to recommend prosecutions, I'm sure it could do that and I would have confidence in such an investigation," he said.

Goldstone warned that if an internal investigation were not conducted, Israel could face prosecution at international tribunals.

"If they don't have a good faith internal investigation this thing is not going to lie down and die," he said.


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