Israel has submitted a report to the United Nations responding to allegations of war crimes against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
In an official 46-page response, Israel dismissed the U.N.-commissioned Goldstone Report, which accused the Jewish state of war crimes during the Gaza conflict a year ago. The report, authored by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, found that Israel used excessive force and deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians in heavily populated areas.
Israel denied that, saying the war was a legitimate act of self-defense after years of Palestinian rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas. It said the army made every effort to avoid civilian casualties, even though Hamas used civilians as human shields.
Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza War, according to Hamas accounts, including both militants and civilians. A total of 13 Israelis were also killed.
The Goldstone Report also accused Palestinian militants of committing war crimes during the Gaza conflict, a charge rejected by Hamas.
In the document submitted to the United Nations, Israel sidestepped a key demand of the Goldstone Report: to set up an independent commission of inquiry into army actions during the war. Israel fears that would be tantamount to accepting guilt and would tie its hands in future wars.
"Israel has nothing to gain by cooperating with this kangaroo court," said Israeli analyst Gerald Steinberg. "The Goldstone Report, if dissected, taken apart, can easily be shown to be a fabrication based on a lot of false claims, and claims that are made out of context. So the best thing I think the Israeli government can do is to expose this whole thing as a farce."
Therefore, Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission. But Israeli analyst Hirsch Goodman says that did more harm than good.
"By not cooperating it is as if we had something to hide, and I think that was a mistake," said Goodman.
Goodman says that while the Goldstone Report is unjust, Israel can mend fences with the U.N. by establishing an inquiry commission.
"It is an important thing to be able to defend yourself and to show the world that you've got nothing to hide," he added.
Israel has until February 5 to give a final response on appointing a commission of inquiry. If it fails to do so, the U.N secretary-general could refer the matter to the Security Council for further action.