Israel is pulling out all stops in the attempt to have the UN resolution endorsing the Goldstone Report, which charges that nation with serious human rights violations, completely rejected. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other key government officials have contacted the leaders of UN member nations to try to convince them to support Israel's position in this matter. The problem is that Israel has no creditable position with regard to their overly brutal actions against the civilian population of Gaza.
Israel has been accused with human rights violations numerous times in the past but has managed to avoid severe censure, sanctions or other penalties. But this time the evidence appears to be very substantial. The report, submitted to the UN by Judge Richard Goldstone of South Africa, charges that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields, and destroyed civilian infrastructure during its incursion in December 2008 into the Gaza Strip to root out Palestinian rocket squads. It also cited Palestine, specifically Hamas, for human rights violations.
The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva voted 25 to 6 on October 15 to endorse the report and send it to the U.N. Security Council for further action. The Human Rights Council resolution cites only Israel and not Hamas. Judge Goldstone, who agreed to lead the fact-finding mission only if he could investigate Hamas as well, has condemned the council for ignoring his findings on Hamas war crimes.
Much of the world will be watching closely to see what will transpire in the UN Security Council. The Council will be meeting very soon to begin debating the issue followed by a vote to either adopt it or reject it. The Council has fifteen members, with five permanent members having the right to veto the resolution and defeat it. The permanent members are Russia, China, France, the UK and the U.S. It takes a vote of nine members to pass a resolution as long as there is no veto. Member abstentions are not considered a veto and will not the defeat of a resolution.
Currently, the feeling seems to be that the permanent members, with the exception of the U.S., most likely will not veto the resolution and could very well abstain. That would mean that at least nine of the non-permanent members would need to vote in favor for passage with no veto. The U.S. might abstain but the chances for a vote to pass it are not very likely given our government's close relationship with Israel.
This will be a decision of monumental significance for President Barack Obama. Remember, he recently received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. While many have criticized the decision by the Nobel Prize Committee, citing a lack of specific accomplishments by the president, the general consensus is that it was awarded because of his positive statements about diplomacy, world peace, and nuclear disarmament. The Committee is basing its decision on the great potential it envisions in his future actions.
The decision by Obama will truly be monumental. Without a doubt, the fact that he accepted the peace prize will put tremendous pressure on him to act in the best interests of human rights. The U.S. has made numerous vetoes on resolutions brought against Israel for alleged human rights over the years, which has kept Israel from being censured, but which has also made Israel more suspect in the eyes of the world. This will be no time for Obama to just continue to give them a free pass but a time that demands he carefully analyze the issue at hand and make a courageous decision.
Let's examine the pros and cons of this issue. The actions of Israel during its attack on Hamas in Gaza have been documented in depth by UN investigators and other human rights organizations. It is also well-documented that Hamas also violated human rights in rocket attacks aimed at Israeli cities and civilian populations. Why Hamas was not cited for violations when the UN Human Rights Commission endorsed the Goldstone Report is not known so the only issue left to debate is the charge of violations by Israel.
I clearly remember that during those attacks the president-elect, Barack Obama, was noticeably silent about the actions taken by Israel. He basically said nothing, indicating that it was not his place to take any stand because he was not yet in charge. While he had no authority to influence the situation by speaking out, I was very disappointed that he decided to remain completely silent.
Well, he now has no option of remaining silent for he is the one who will have to make a history-making decision. He will have tremendous pressure from Israel and its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as from AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, and many members of the U.S. Congress. Netanyahu is making it known that if this resolution is passed it would have severe repercussions relative to any further peace discussions with Palestine.
Israel should understand that this time they may not escape censure because of the magnitude of the violations and the depth of the evidence presented. I believe that Israel is at the point that it must decide if it will finally become a full member of the world community of nations or if it will continue on a course that leads to even greater isolation. Over the 60 years since Israel became a sovereign state, it has been involved in numerous conflicts with its Middle East neighbors, even though not every confrontation was their fault.