“A joint French-British UN initiative would call on Israel and the Palestinians to hold immediate, independent investigations into war crimes allegations stemming from the war in Gaza, as part of a bid to send the Goldstone report back to Geneva and out of the hands of the Security Council or the International Criminal Court at The Hague,” Haaretz reported Tuesday.
The proposal comes before the United Nations General Assembly is scheduled Wednesday to deliberate on the Goldstone report on the Israeli war in the Gaza Strip earlier this year. A source at the Israeli Foreign Ministry in occupied Jerusalem said that French President Nicolas Sarkozy informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the details of the initiative during a telephone conversation.
Netanyahu asked the French President to take action among European Union partners in an effort to form collective opposition to any resolution at the UN on the Goldstone report.
The initiative is a list of “red lines” which was adopted by the 27 members of the European Union. Its main points:
2. The resolution would call on Israel and the Palestinians to embark on an independent investigation into the events of Operation Cast Lead, and the allegations of war crimes.
3. The handling of the Goldstone report will return to the Human Rights Council, the UN body in Geneva. The parties will have to report to the council on the findings of their investigations in a few months.
According to the Foreign Ministry source, the document was delivered yesterday by the British and French permanent representatives at the UN to the Palestinian Authority delegation at the international body, as well as the representatives of Arab states, and the members of the Security Council.
Arab representatives at the UN are expected to complete Tuesday the first draft of a resolution that will be brought to the General Assembly for a vote. That report accused Israel of war crimes and was prepared by a UN fact-finding commission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone.
The French and British has emphasized in their exchanges with the Arab representatives that if the “red lines” are not part of the resolution being prepared, the European Union will abstain, and may even vote against it – and expects that much of the international community will too.
“If you agree to go for a simple resolution which calls on Israel to carry out an investigation you will receive full support,” a source familiar with the proposal said. “However, if you attempt to go further there will be at least 60 abstentions and only 120 votes in support.”
Any resolution the Palestinians put forth will receive a large majority, but there is great importance to the weight of EU votes, and other countries who will vote in line with the EU.
Assessments in Israel hold that there is little chance the Palestinians will agree to the Franco-British proposal and Tel Aviv wants any resolution torpedoed.
Meanwhile, the Arab draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, says the assembly “requests the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to transmit the report … to the Security Council.” It also urges Israel and the Palestinians to comply with the report’s recommendations for launching investigations into allegations of war crimes.
The draft also tells Ban to report back to the assembly within three months on implementation of the resolution. Arab and Western diplomats told Reuters there was little doubt a majority of the General Assembly would vote in favor of the Arab draft. But negotiations were underway as Arab delegates sought to persuade Western powers to back the text.
Western diplomats said the United States would most likely vote against the resolution. Unless it is revised, they said, most European delegations would join Washington and reject it.
Resolutions of the General Assembly, unlike those of the Security Council, are nonbinding. But UN diplomats say such a resolution would intensify pressure on Israel to launch a full investigation into the actions of its army during the war. The Goldstone report lambasted both sides in the war, but was harsher toward Israel.
The Arab draft resolution does not explicitly endorse a Human Rights Council resolution from last month that censured Israel for its actions in the Gaza war without referring to any “wrongdoing” by Hamas. The United States voted against that resolution while France and Britain abstained from the vote.
But it does endorse an HRC report that included the resolution. Sudan’s UN Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem said it amounted to a full endorsement of the HRC resolution. “It endorses the Human Rights Council resolution, that is the point,” he told Reuters. “And it exposes the double standards that some permanent Security Council members have towards the occupying power (Israel) in Palestine.”
Several Western diplomats told Reuters the Arab draft was “unacceptable” because of its endorsement of the HRC actions and for requesting Security Council intervention. Abdalhaleem said the Arabs had rejected an earlier European draft that said the General Assembly would merely “take note” of the Goldstone report and pass the issue back to the HRC.