United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told President Shimon Peres in a meeting in New York today that the UN would not be retracting the Goldstone Report, despite its author’s renouncement of some of the report’s claims.
The Goldstone report was sponsored by the UN, focusing on Operation Cast Lead that took place in Gaza over the winter of 2008 and 2009.
The report accused Israel of targeting Palestinian civilians, however, the report’s author has recently retracted some of his allegations against Israel in an op-ed published last Friday in the Washington Post.
The Israeli government has said it will try to have the UN revoke the report following Goldstone’s retraction.
Peres implored Ban to retract the report in light of Goldstone’s recent regret, however, the secretary general did not comply.
Ban partially blamed Israel for the inaccuracy of the report, telling Peres that if Israel had cooperated with those writing the report, the report would have come to different conclusions.
The secretary general stressed the importance of introspection both on the part of Israelis as well as Palestinians, saying a report on the Gaza operation was a vehicle for self criticism.
Peres responded, saying this was a double standard. “Hamas has never investigated itself and the UN does not say a thing,” the president said. “Why doesn’t the UN pressure Hamas to investigate Operation Cast Lead?” he asked.
Peres and Ban also discussed the “worrying impasse”, that the Israelis and Palestinians have hit, a UN spokesperson said, stressing the urgent need to revive the Middle East peace process.
Ban expressed his concern over the escalating violence along the Gaza-Israel border. Gazan militants have fired mortars and rockets at Israel over the past two days, hitting a school bus full of children on Thursday. Two children were wounded, one seriously.
Israel has retaliated with air strikes. Palestinian sources say that nine have been killed in the strikes.
“The secretary general urged maximum restraint from both sides,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.
The spokesman added that “the secretary general repeated his condemnation of militant rocket fire from Gaza, and expressed his serious concern about Palestinian civilian casualties in Israeli military operations.”
At the start of the meeting, Peres told the Ban that rockets were continuing to be fired at Israel, a day after Hamas attacked a bus full of children. “I cannot begin to describe to you the mood in my country in light of the event,” Peres said.
The Israeli president then went on to discuss the murder of the Fogel family just a few weeks ago, in which the parents and three of their children were massacred when a terrorist entered their West Bank home in the settlement of Itamar, stabbing them to death.
“We ask, why?” exclaimed Peres, “The Israeli nation also needs answers, and we will not hesitate to defend ourselves.”
The Israeli president implored the UN secretary general to take a stance, saying “the UN cannot remain neutral in light of the rockets fired from Gaza to Israel.”
Ban condemned the attacks from Gaza, offering his condolences over the youth who was injured in Thursday’s attack on the school bus. However, the secretary general spoke out against IDF strikes on the strip, saying that this leads to unwarranted Palestinian deaths.
He called on both sides to deescalate the situation in southern Israel and Gaza and solve the conflict through peaceful means.
Despite his refusal to retract the Goldstone Report, Ban had only positive things to say about the Israeli president. “Everyone [Peres met with during his U.S. trip] feels that the meeting went excellently.”
However, he added that he was concerned about the standstill in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, cautioning that such an impasse could lead to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.