Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, said on Wednesday she wanted a controversial report on Israel’s 2008-09 Gaza offensive to “disappear” but did not think it could be amended even though its author now says he may have been wrong.
Israel has urged the United Nations to cancel the 2009 report to the U.N. Human Rights Council by South African jurist Richard Goldstone that said both Israel and the Islamist group Hamas were guilty of war crimes in the Gaza conflict.
Last week, Goldstone wrote in the Washington Post that Israeli investigations of the Gaza conflict indicated civilians had not been intentionally targeted. He said his report, published about nine months after the conflict, would have been different had he known this while writing it.
“I’m not sure it can be amended,” Rice told a congressional hearing. “What we want to see is for it to disappear and no longer be a subject of discussion and debate in the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly or beyond.”
The United States, a steadfast ally to Israel, has worked for years to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. As change sweeps the Arab world, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday it was “more urgent than ever” to revive the stalled peace process.
Rice told lawmakers the United States repudiated the Goldstone report as “deeply flawed” when it first emerged.
“We see no need … for the Goldstone report to be considered and now that its principal author has said what he said, frankly, our view is reinforced that this should go away and that’s what we’ll work to do,” she said.
About 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, and 13 Israelis were killed in the brief but devastating war from December 2008 to January 2009 that was launched with Israel’s declared aim of ending cross-border rocket fire from Palestinian militants.
Israel refused to cooperate with Goldstone’s investigation and condemned his report as distorted and biased.
Rice said the United States did not see any evidence at the time that Israel intentionally targeted civilians or committed war crimes. Israel had shown an ability to investigate concerns about the conflict, “quite in contrast with Hamas,” she said.
Rice also defended U.S. participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council, saying that it was better for the United States to stay engaged and resist anti-Israel bias on the council “rather than turn our backs.”
Asked by lawmakers about a possible Palestinian move for U.N. recognition of an independent Palestinian state, Rice said “you can pass a resolution but that does not a viable state create.”
“A viable state can only be established through direct negotiations between the parties,” she said.
Israel has been alarmed by a string of recognitions by Latin American states of Palestinian statehood, which some analysts say could be a precursor to a move by the Palestinians to seek full U.N. membership.