The government in Jerusalem and Israel advocates in Washington denounced a United Nations report accusing the Jewish state of war crimes, while the White House had a muted “wait-and-see” reaction.
“In relation to this latest round of violence, which resulted in an unprecedented number of casualties, the commission was able to gather substantial information pointing to serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by Israel and by Palestinian armed groups. In some cases, these violations may amount to war crimes,” states in part the report from a commission of inquiry reporting to the UN Human Rights Council. “The onus remains on Israel to provide sufficient details on its targeting decisions to allow an independent assessment of the legality of the attacks conducted by the Israel Defense Forces and to assist victims in their quest for the truth.”
“The commission is concerned that impunity prevails across the board for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law allegedly committed by Israeli forces, whether it be in the context of active hostilities in Gaza or killings, torture and ill-treatment in the West Bank. Israel must break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable, not only as a means to secure justice for victims but also to ensure the necessary guarantees for non-repetition.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset today that “in defending itself against such attacks, Israel’s military acted, and acts, according to the highest international standards.”
“The report in hand was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution; it was given an obviously biased mandate; it was initially headed by a grossly biased chairperson who received money from the Palestinians and was forced to resign,” Netanyahu said.
“…Israel treats this report as flawed and biased, and it urges all fair-minded observers to do the same.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that they’re “continuing to review” the 184-page report.
“We indicated last year in the midst of the conflict, that we support Israel’s right to self-defense. And at the same time, we expressed deep concern about the civilians in Gaza that were in harm’s way. And we urged all parties to do everything they could to protect innocent civilians who were essentially caught in the crossfire of this conflict,” Earnest said.
“And that was an important thing to do, particularly given the high civilian death toll in Gaza. But we are also aware Israel has undertaken an investigation of incidents from the conflict. And we await further outcomes from the Israeli government on this particular matter.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee issued a statement urging the White House and Congress “to stand by our ally, particularly if international bodies seek to exploit this report to punish Israel.”
“There is only one true culprit for last summer’s unfortunate civilian casualties: the terrorist organization Hamas. Hamas indiscriminately waged a war of aggression against Israeli civilians while inhumanely exploiting Gaza residents as human shields. Any suggestion of moral symmetry between the actions of Israel and those of the terrorist organization Hamas is a malicious affront to the truth,” AIPAC said.
“Because it scrupulously employed extraordinary measures exceeding international legal standards in order to avoid civilian casualties, Israel deserves praise rather than criticism.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) called the report “the latest evidence that Israel is also confronting a global attempt to de-legitimatize its very existence, especially its inherent right to self-defense.”
“This report illustrates the failings of the UN Human Rights Council. There is no moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas. Israel tries to avoid civilian casualties while Hamas revels in them,” Royce said. “Moving forward, the Administration and Congress must actively work together and with our allies to defeat referrals of the conclusions of this report to other international bodies and tribunals. Failing to do so would create a new arena of confrontation that would further damage prospects for peace.”
Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) noted that “from the outset, this ill-conceived report promised to demonize Israel for defending itself.”
“Nowhere else in the Middle East—certainly not in Gaza—do we find such respect for international law and pursuit of justice,” Engel said. “This unfair singling out of Israel harms American interests and foments further instability in a volatile part of the world.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the UN report “is just another sign that the council has lost all credibility.”
“This attack on Israel is just the latest piece of evidence that President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s efforts to reform the organization from within have failed. The U.S. should not participate in the council until it is truly reformed,” added the 2016 presidential candidate.
“…I will continue to fight UN efforts like this to delegitimize Israel and will work to ensure that no U.S. funding goes to support UN agencies, such as the UN Human Rights Council, unless they cease their anti-Israel agenda.”