UN General Assembly adopts Goldstone Report

The United Nations General Assembly is calling on Israel and the Palestinians to investigate war crime allegations leveled in a UN report on the Gaza war.

The 192-member body adopted the resolution Thursday by a vote of 114-18, with others absent or abstaining.

The resolution calls on the Security Council to act if either side fails to launch credible investigations within three months.

It endorses a report by an expert panel chaired by South African Judge Richard Goldstone which concluded both Israel and Palestinian militants committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

The harshly worded draft resolution, composed by Arab member states, has not been softened despite U.S. and European efforts.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev told Haaretz that she didn’t plan to take part in the vote. “I won’t lend a hand to a debate whose conclusions are predetermined. It was a predictable Arab game.”

However, Israel and the United States were among those voting against the resolution. A total of 44 countries abstained.

The resolution enjoyed wide support among the Non-Aligned Movement bloc and the Arab bloc. These states comprise an automatic majority of 120 votes.

The draft resolution includes a demand for the Israeli government to carry out an “independent and credible” internal investigation of its own conduct during Israel’s 3-week offensive in Gaza, which left over 1,000 Palestinians dead.

Hamas isn’t mentioned in the draft resolution. Instead, it calls on the “Palestinian side” to carry out an investigation into the Goldstone report findings that relate to Palestinians.

The draft resolution also includes a recommendation to convene the signatories of the fourth Geneva Convention treaty for an emergency session to discuss Israel’s violations of the treaty.

Apart from Israel and the United States, a number of European countries including Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic voted against the resolution. But the European Union was split, with others including Britain and France abstaining. Most developing countries voted in favor.

There is no veto in UN General Assembly votes, but the assembly’s resolutions are non-binding. However, resolutions adopted by the General Assembly grant legitimacy to Security Council initiatives. But the five permanent members of the Security Council have the power to veto any resolution put up for a vote. Thus, any Arab initiative for an extreme resolution against Israel, such as the submission of the Goldstone report to the International Criminal Court, will likely be torpedoed by the veto-wielding U.S.

If the matter is put up for a Security Council vote, there is also the possibility that the U.S. and its allies – Britain or France, will block an official resolution, and instead issue a presidential statement or a press release.

An Israel delegate denounced the adoption of the resolution as a “mockery of reality” after Israel seized a vessel packed with weapons believed to have been sent by Iran to Hezbollah.

Israel’s 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.”

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the resolution was flawed in several respects, including its failure to name the Hamas militant movement that rules Gaza. He also said a demand for international supervision of any Israeli and Palestinian investigations was “unhelpful.”