GENEVA (AFP) – Israel urged the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday not to “reward terror” by endorsing a report accusing both the Jewish state and radical Palestinian group Hamas of war crimes in the Gaza conflict.
“The resolution, as proposed, will be a reward for terror and will send a clear message to terrorists everywhere,” Aharon Leshno Yaar, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva told the 47-state council.
“They will clearly hear that this new form of warfare, as used by Hamas in Gaza, will offer immunity as countries will be prevented from waging effective responses,” he added as the council weighed up the report produced by an independent international fact-finding mission.
“This strategy will be repeated in other places, against other countries fighting terror.”
The special session on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories and East Jerusalem is to decide whether to endorse the report from the team led by former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone.
The probe said both Israel and Hamas, Gaza’s rulers, committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during a 22-day conflict ending in January that Israel launched in response to rocket fire from the coastal enclave.
The council had already held a debate two weeks ago on the report, but it decided then to postpone by six months a decision on its recommendations.
The delay mooted by the United States and European states was meant to help buy some time amid attempts by Washington to relaunch the Middle East peace process.
However, the Palestinian Authority reversed its stance in recent days and called for a new session of the Council with the backing of Egypt and Pakistan, non-aligned countries and the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
Israel reiterated its belief that the report was “biased” and a warning that endorsement would damage the peace process.
“Action taken here today will set back hopes for peace,” Leshno Yaar said.
Thursday’s session comes a day after a UN Security Council debate in New York on the Middle East, during which the United Nations pressed Israel and the Palestinians to comply with the damning report.
Addressing Thursday’s session in Geneva, the UN human rights chief Navi Pillay reiterated her support for the conclusions in the Goldstone report.
“Let me take this opportunity to reiterate my support for the recommendations of the fact-finding mission, including its call for urgent action to counter impunity,” she said.
The report recommends referral of its conclusions to the International Criminal Court prosecutor in The Hague, if Israel and the Islamist group Hamas fail to carry out credible investigations within six months.
It also recommends the UN Security Council set up an independent team of experts to monitor and report on any investigations undertaken by Israel on the allegations.
The draft resolution debated by the Human Rights Council seeks endorsement of “the recommendations contained in the report … and calls upon all concerned parties including United Nations bodies, to ensure their implementation in accordance with their respective mandates.”
In Jerusalem, Israeli President Shimon Peres also criticised the Human Rights Council’s special meeting.
“We cannot accept being judged by a majority that is hostile against Israel, as is the case in the Human Rights Council,” he said.
“If the United Nations wants to investigate, it should start by investigating calls by Iran for the destruction of Israel. There is a limit to hypocrisy. Why is the world silent in front of Iran?”
The conflict, that erupted on 27 December 2008, left 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.