Gaza war crimes report author says US must justify claims his findings are flawed.
“The idea is to set up a team to double-check the findings, to ensure there was no whitewash or lack of professionalism,” the source said, adding that Netanyahu’s and Barak’s initiative was awaiting cabinet approval next week.
Asked why the government resisted the idea of an independent investigation, the source said: “Netanyahu is afraid of having his hands tied if further action is required in Gaza.”
A Netanyahu spokesman declined to comment.
‘Laws of war’
Barak’s office did not immediately confirm the review initiative, but made clear it considered Israel’s Gaza veterans off limit to further investigations.
“Defence Minister Ehud Barak reiterates and clarifies that no investigative commission will be set up … that will investigate an Israel Defence Force soldier or officer,” it said in a statement.
“The State of Israel intends to struggle against the legitimacy of the the Goldstone report. In addition, Israel will take action so that the laws of war are amended to bring them into line with the struggle against terrorists who operate among civilians.”
The Goldstone report, which criticised both Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas for war crimes, was far more critical of Israeli forces for “targeting and terrorising civilians” during the three-week offensive between last December and January.
It gave both sides six months to mount credible investigations or face possible prosecution at The Hague.
Israel refused to co-operate with Goldstone’s fact-finding mission, accusing it of bias.
Goldstone has said he would have confidence in an independent Israeli investigation. Such panels have, in the past, prompted high-level political resignations and reshuffles.
During Israel’s offensive against Gaza, more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, according to Palestinian officials and human rights groups, including at least 900 civilians.
The toll on the Israeli side was 13, most of whom were soldiers.
According to the Israeli government, they had “both a right and an obligation to take military action … to stop Hamas’s almost incessant rocket and mortar attacks” that caused injuries to residents and damage to property in Israeli towns.
But the Goldstone report, which was adopted in October by the UN Human Rights Council, challenged this account, claiming that while “the Israeli Government [has] sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks”, it was “directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole”.
The Goldstone report claims that the UN investigation found this “overall policy [of the Israeli government] aimed at punishing the Gaza population” was one “firmly based in fact”.
It concluded that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure.
The report also criticised Palestinian factions of indiscriminately and deliberately launching rockets attacks upon the Israeli civilian population.