October 11, 2009
In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict
Israeli officials on Sunday criticized the British Ambassador to the United Nations John Sawers for backing a controversial United Nations report into Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza last winter, saying that such support could backfire when Britain tries to conduct its own war on terror.
The investigation into the three-week conflict, sparked by rocket fire from Gaza on Israel’s southern communities, was headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone. Israel has dismissed the report as one-sided, while the U.S. is believed to have pressed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to refrain from supporting its findings.
Sawers told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday morning that he supports the findings of the Goldstone commission, and called for both Israel and the Palestinians to investigate its conclusions.
“London is waging its own war against terror, and they might find themselves with their hands tied if they back Goldstone’s recommendations,” the Israeli officials said.
The ambassador, who will next month become head of MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency, told the radio that both sides had been damaged by efforts to prevent a UN debate on the report.
He said attempts by Israel and the Palestinians to suppress a debate on the report had boomeranged, as the report would be discussed anyway, but now a tense atmosphere would prevail.
The comments from Jerusalem are in line with Israel’s argument that the Goldstone report could make nations so fearful of committing war crimes that they would be impotent to act against terrorism.
The officials said world consensus is leaning toward the position that the report is an illegitimate document, adding that Britain should be the last country to support its conclusions.
Officials at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem expressed the hope Sunday that the ambassador’s remarks did not reflect an official British stance and were based entirely on his own personal position.
The Foreign Ministry convened an emergency meeting in light of Sawer’s comments, and told ministers not to issue any official response.