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Under US pressure to advance Mideast peace, the Palestinian Authority has dropped its plans to endorse the controversial Goldstone report, the most comprehensive investigation to date of the actions of Israel and Hamas during the Gaza war. Although the report accuses both parties of war crimes, US ally Israel has rejected it for setting up a false moral equivalancy between a democratic state and a militant organization.
Haaretz reports that the US convinced the Palestinian Authority not to back the report, which was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council and issued last month by Judge Richard Goldstone of South Africa, in order to further the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
[A political source in Jerusalem said] that the decision appears to be based on pressure from the Obama administration, exerted by way of U.S. representatives in Geneva, as well as through contacts between Washington and Ramallah.
The Obama administration has told the Palestinians that a renewal of the peace process must come before any diplomatic initiatives based on the Goldstone report, or any other initiatives that could stifle efforts to renew Israel-PA negotiations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated in recent days that efforts to use the Goldstone report to advance anti-Israel measures in the Human Rights Council or the International Tribunal in The Hague will deal a death blow to the peace process.
The BBC notes however that some PA officials have denied that the group has withdrawn its endorsement of the Goldstone report.
The Christian Science Monitor reported that the Goldstone report, issued on Sept. 15, found "strong evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity" by both the Israel Defense Force and Hamas's fighters during the fighting in December and January, which left some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. At least several hundred of the Palestinians killed were civilians, but human rights groups and the Israeli army disagree over the exact numbers.
Reuters writes that Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi said that the PA still intended to return to the issue at UN Human Rights Council in March, but that its deferral of endorsement would further the peace process.
The Council had been due to vote on Friday on a resolution that would have condemned Israel's failure to cooperate with a U.N. war crimes investigation led by Richard Goldstone, and forwarded his report to the Security Council.
But Pakistan, speaking for Arab, Islamic, and African sponsors of a resolution, formally asked the forum to defer action on their text until the next regular session in March.
This would "give more time for a broad-based and comprehensive consideration" of the report, Pakistan's envoy Zamir Akram told the 47-member-state forum.
The Associated Press writes that the Goldstone report has put Israel on the back foot, as it may encourage war-crime prosecutions of Israeli officials abroad. This week, British activists pushed for the arrest of visiting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
"The (Goldstone) report clearly says those war crimes should be properly investigated, and that if Israel fails to investigate, that other courts could," said Tayab Ali, one of the lawyers representing 16 Palestinian families in the Barak case in London.
"How much higher do you need to go than the United Nations to establish that war crimes occurred?"