The UN Human Rights Council has deferred a vote on recommendations from a controversial fact-finding mission on Gaza until its next session in March. The deferment is seen as a victory for the Obama administration, which lobbied hard to prevent a condemnation of Israel at the Council.
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The UN Human Rights Council was set to condemn Israel for its failure to cooperate with the fact finding mission headed by South African Justice, Richard Goldstone. Under pressure from the United States, the Council agreed to defer action on the report for six months.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner tells VOA he is pleased by this decision.
"This work here needs to be viewed in terms of the larger peace process," he said. "Senator Mitchell and the president are deeply engaged with the Israelis and the Palestinians in trying to address the larger issues of peace and security and to create a long-term solution to the range of problems there. I think these issues can be an affirmative part of that. But, this moment was not the right place to be debating this report."
The report accuses both Israel and Hamas militants of committing war crimes during the three-week war in Gaza that began in late 2008. But, its criticisms of Israel's actions are particularly harsh.
The report recommends both parties undertake investigations into the crimes. And, if they fail to do so within six months, it says the UN Security Council should turn the matter over to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor.
Middle East peace talks have been on hold since the Gaza conflict. And, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the United Nations would deal, what he called, a fatal blow for Israeli-Palestinian peace if it endorses the report.
Posner says the UN Council is guilty of engaging in a double standard. He says the Council has devoted a disproportionate amount of time on Israel and that has to stop.
"The Goldstone report - 575 pages - has lots of allegations," he added. "It is now important for Israel, for the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians, to review those allegations, to set up proper review mechanisms and to have accountability where the allegations warrant it."
The human rights group Amnesty International says it regrets the decision to defer a vote on the Goldstone report until March 2010. It says this deferral indicates a lack of political will to deal with issues of accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Gaza and southern Israel.