The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva approved by a wide margin Friday the controversial Goldstone Report on the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip last winter.
The report accuses Israel of war crimes during its three week military operation to stop rocket fire on southern Israeli communities and put a halt to Gaza weapons smuggling.
Israeli leaders blasted the vote from the decidedly anti-Israel council, which approved the Goldstone document in a special session by a margin of 25 to 6, with 11 members abstaining.
The United States, Italy, Holland, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine voted against the report. Russia, China, Egypt, Argentina and Brazil were among the countries that voted for it. Japan, Mexico, Norway and South Korea were among the abstainers. Five countries, including France and the United Kingdom, declined to vote.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invested a lot of effort in the days before the vote, trying to convince his European and other counterparts to reject the report. Netanyahu warned them that it will hinder free societies from defending themselves against terrorists.
The prime minister also blamed the report for "having contributed to the Palestinians' hardening of their stance and refusing negotiations."
Israelis to be Subject to War Crimes?
The vote refers the Goldstone Report to the U.N. General Assembly and calls for both Israel and the Palestinians to conduct their own investigations of war crimes and other charges. If they don't, the report says the U.N. Security Council should take up the issue with the International Criminal Court, leaving Israeli military and political leaders subject to war crimes trials.
Before the vote, the commission heard from the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp. He spoke on behalf of UN Watch, an independent human rights group and praised the performance of Israel's army.
He said that the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza "did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."
The U.N. body ignored the warnings about the report earlier in the week from Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev.
"It denies Israel's right to defend its citizens," Shalev said. "It falls directly into the pitfall strategically laid down by terrorist organizations around the world."
It prevents, and will prevent democratic Member states from defending themselves against terrorism," she added. "It permits terrorists to victimize civilians, target the innocent, and use as human shields those it claims to defend."
Sources: Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Israeli Foreign Ministry