The author of a damning report on Israel’s winter offensive against Hamas in Gaza, Richard Goldstone, has said that Foreign Minster Avigdor Lieberman does not want there to be an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Goldstone, a South African Jurist, made the claim in a conference call
on Sunday with 150 U.S. rabbis from left-leaning organizations. He was speaking in reference to an Israeli assertion that the report would harm peace talks.
"That just is a shallow, I believe, false allegation," he said. "What peace process are they talking about? There isn’t one. The Israeli foreign minister doesn’t want one at all."
Lieberman, a right-winger, has drawn fire for criticizing Israel’s past efforts in seeking a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Goldstone's report accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the 3-week campaign, but mainly focused on alleged Israeli offenses. It set off an uproar in Israel, and Israeli officials have largely dismissed it as biased. In the conference call – which was cosponsored by the Ta'anit Tzedek Jewish Fast For Gaza; Rabbis for Human Rights, North America; and the Brit Tzedek Rabbinic Cabinet – Goldstone reiterated the allegation in his report that Israel deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians. "There is one thread running through, and that was to punish the people of Gaza," he told the rabbis. "It was a collective punishment. I don't believe that sufficient distinction was made between civilians and combatants." The UN investigator, who has also served as chief prosecutor for the world body of war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, rejected statements that Hamas militants were in close proximity to witnesses the probe interviewed in Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist militant group. "Let me immediately refute with every conviction I can muster the mischievous and untruthful suggestion that there was any Hamas presence anywhere near the places near where we interviewed witnesses," Goldstone said. "It just isn't true – had it been so, I would have found it completely unacceptable.