UN to debate Goldstone report after Abbas U-turn

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The Independent Online

Hopes that US President Barack Obama would breathe new life into a peace process with Israel have "evaporated" according to an internal document circulated within the Fatah faction led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

The document leaked to the Associated Press, follows what is widely seen by both Israelis and Palestinians as a clear climbdown from Washington's call for a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank. in the face of stiff resistance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau.

The internal report issued by the Fatah department headed by the faction's No 2 Mohammed Ghneim, says: "All hopes placed in the new U.S. administration and President Obama have evaporated," and adds that the President "couldn't withstand the pressure of the Zionist lobby, which led to a retreat from his previous positions on halting settlement construction and defining an agenda for the negotiations and peace."

The leak has coincided with a U-turn by the Palestinians' West Bank leadership under President Abbas which means that the UN Human Rights Council will after all debate the Goldstone report calling for an investigation into possible war crimes during Israel's winter offensive in Gaza. The Council is expected to meet tomorrow in Geneva to start discussing the report it commissioned from the former South African judge Richard Goldstone—which has infuriated Israel's leaders.

It was not clear whether the internal Fatah report was endorsed by the Palestinian President himself and whether the leak was intended as pressure on the US to taker a tougher line with Israel.

The reconvened meeting of the UN Human Rights Council comes two weeks after Palestinian representatives agreed under strong US pressure to defer a vote on the report till next year. The deferment had exposed the Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas to a wave of Palestinian criticism eagerly fuelled by, but not confined to, his Hamas rivals.

The Goldstone report accused Hamas of possible war crimes but the bulk of it was devoted to parallel accusations against Israel including for allegedly targeting civilians, deliberately destroying infrastructure and using human shields in direct violation of international law.

The Council was to have voted on referring the report to the UN Security council as a first stage towards implementing its recommendation that Israel should face International Criminal Court proceedings if it does not launch its own independent investigation into its conduct of the offensive.

The UN Security Council is thought likely to reject any move for full implementation of its recommendations because of US opposition. Israel's foreign ministry described the report yesterday as based largely on Hamas propaganda and "disconnected from reality".

Mr Abbas yesterday fiercely denounced Hamas yesterday in a speech saying that its control had turned Gaza into an "emirate of darkness", accusing Hamas fighters of fleeing during the war leaving "their people to be killed in Gaza," and challenging it to say whether it accepted the Goldstone report in full. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum described the speech as "base" and "misguided".