UN hit backfires
By BENNY AVNI
Last Updated: 3:26 AM, October 8, 2009
Posted: 12:51 AM, October 8, 2009
The UN's Goldstone report -- a ginned-up pastiche of baseless charges of war crimes by Israeli soldiers in last winter's Gaza campaign -- may wind up significantly weakening Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Not exactly the target that Arab governments and Western anti-Israel leftists were aiming at when they commissioned the hit on the Israeli Defense Force.
Another likely casualty: any hope President Obama harbors about progress toward an Arab-Israeli "peace" agreement. Plus, down the line, American soldiers may get the UN-kangaroo-court treatment.
Richard Goldstone's allegations that Israelis committed war crimes in the campaign against Gaza terrorists have thrown gasoline on the Mideast's fires -- strengthening Hamas extremists and weakening US-backed Palestinians. Other Arab Islamists across the region are also using Goldstone's handiwork to incite violence and exploit raw emotions.
This is especially sad because progress is happening in the West Bank, where the local economy is showing some surprising signs of health, such as a projected 7 percent growth rate this year.
The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council -- whose membership is dominated by such notorious human-rights abusers as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Cuba -- commissioned Goldstone (a South African jurist) to do a hit on Israel: His original mandate didn't even direct him to consider the documented war crimes Hamas committed during the winter conflict.
But Goldstone did his best to downplay his ties to the Israel-obsessed council -- presenting his report last month in New York, rather than Geneva, and highlighting his recommendation that the Security Council send the case to the International Criminal Court, where Israelis would be tried.
Yet there's a technical hitch: Goldstone can't officially present his findings to the New York-based Security Council, but only to the Human Rights Council that hired him in the first place. The HRC could then transfer the report to New York.
And Abbas (who knows his weak hold on power rests on US and Israeli support) came under stiff pressure from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His representative to the Human Rights Council soon requested a delay until next March.
Whereupon Hamas launched "spontaneous" demonstrations, starting in Hamas-controlled Gaza but soon spreading to the PA-run West Bank, complete with signs accusing Abbas of dancing on the blood of shahids (martyrs).
Adding fuel to the fire, and perhaps not by coincidence, a northern Israeli Islamist rabble rouser, Raad Salah, started spreading false rumors last week that Israel is planning to destroy the holiest Muslim site in Jerusalem, the al-Aqsa mosque. The rioting spread to Jerusalem over the weekend. Israeli politicians glumly warn that a full-blown third Intifada may soon erupt.
By Tuesday, Abbas had to reverse course. He reportedly asked Arab allies to bring the Goldstone report back to the top of the Human Rights Council agenda. And yesterday, Abbas' representative in New York supported an unsuccessful Libyan attempt to bypass the HRC altogether and put the issue directly on the Security Council's agenda.
Here's America's dilemma in all this: If the Security Council validates Goldstone's findings and sends them on to the war-crimes court, similar "human-rights" reports may soon recommend trials for NATO commanders in Afghanistan.
But quashing the report will require much political capital. The State Department reportedly has already planned to resume its heavy pressure on Israel to "balance" its pressure on Abbas regarding Goldstone.
Plus, America only joined the Human Rights Council this year. (The Bush administration had turned up its nose at the farce.) The Obama administration surely doesn't want to burn bridges there so soon.
But the big loser is plainly Abbas.
As Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman described it recently, PA officials last winter quietly urged Israel to "finish the job" in Gaza, where Israeli troops fought Abbas' hated enemy, Hamas. Now Abbas has to compete with the Islamists on who can scream loudest about Israeli "war crimes" against Hamas "martyrs."
It's a lost cause: The longer the Goldstone report looms large, the stronger the extremists get. Once the United Nations' kangaroo justice gets rolling, anyone at all allied with the West, like Abbas, is a sure victim.