November 6, 2009 / 9:06 AM / 9 years ago

UN assembly votes for probes of Gaza war charges

* Israel, U.S., some European countries vote against

* Israel, Palestinians given 3 months to start inquiries (Adds quotes from Goldstone and former Israeli UN ambassador, paragraphs 8-11)

By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 5 (Reuters) - In a move that angered Israel, the U.N. General Assembly voted on Thursday to urge the Jewish state and Palestinians to investigate war crimes charges leveled in a controversial U.N. report on the Gaza war.

The Arab-drafted resolution is nonbinding and unlikely to lead to inquiries by either Israel or the militant Palestinian Hamas movement that rules Gaza into their conduct during the December-January conflict.

But the outcome was seen by Arab states as a public relations coup and a public discomfiture for Israel, which has reacted with outrage to the findings of the U.N. report, as have American Jewish groups.

Following a two-day debate, 114 countries voted for the resolution with 18 opposed — including Israel and its ally the United States — and 44 abstaining. No country has veto power in the assembly.

The resolution responded to a 575-page report on the Gaza war commissioned by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, written by a panel led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone and published in September.

The report blasted both sides in the conflict, which killed over 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, but was harsher toward Israel, which refused to cooperate with Goldstone.

The resolution follows Goldstone in calling on Israel and "the Palestinian side" to undertake within three months credible investigations into the report’s charges.

At a forum at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, on Thursday, Goldstone criticized Israel for refusing to cooperate, adding that Israel responded to Palestinian attacks with disproportionate force.

As an example, he said that Israeli forces bombed a mosque during a worship ceremony, resulting in a large number of casualties. "If a government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law," Goldstone said.

At the same forum, former Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dore Gold defended his country’s decision to boycott the investigation and sparred verbally with Goldstone.

"This was a fixed fact-finding mission. It wasn’t looking for the truth," Gold said.

The resolution asks U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to transmit the report to the Security Council and to report back to the assembly in three months on implementation of the resolution "with a view to considering further action" by U.N. bodies.


Diplomats said all five veto-wielding permanent Security Council members opposed council involvement, so it was unlikely the 15-nation body — the only U.N. entity with powers of enforcement — would take action.

Despite European Union aspirations to a common foreign policy, the 27-nation bloc was badly split over the assembly resolution. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia voted against it.

Ireland, Portugal, Malta, Slovenia and Cyprus voted in favor while others, including Britain and France, abstained.

Most developing countries voted in favor, reflecting sympathy for the Palestinian cause. Muslim states backed the Goldstone report during the assembly debate and called for an end to what they termed Israel’s impunity in the Middle East.

Israeli Deputy Ambassador Daniel Carmon told the assembly the resolution "endorses and legitimizes a deeply flawed, one-sided and prejudiced report of the discredited Human Rights Council and its politicized work that bends both fact and law."

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Israel that what the United Nations should be investigating was an Iranian arms shipment to Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas that Israel said Wednesday it had intercepted. Israel formally complained to the world body Thursday over the shipment.

U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the assembly resolution was unbalanced in several respects, including its failure to name Hamas. He also said a demand for international supervision of any Israeli and Palestinian investigations was "unhelpful."

In a clear warning to the Obama administration Tuesday, the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority urged President Barack Obama to oppose U.N. endorsement of the Goldstone findings. (Additional reporting by Jim Finkle in Waltham, Massachusetts. Editing by Eric Walsh)

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