JERUSALEM, Israel - Eighteen months after a United Nations report accused Israel of war crimes against humanity during its winter offensive in the Gaza Strip, the report's author admitted his accusations were wrong.
In a lengthy article published in The Washington Post on Friday, retired South African judge Richard Goldstone said, "If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."
"We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza War of 2008-2009 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report," he wrote.
The 575-page report, issued in September 2009, said the IDF's actions during the three-week incursion amounted to "war crimes against humanity."
Israeli responses to the report were varied. IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu said Goldstone's article "has immense public weight."
"In the end, [Goldstone] was guided by the same conscience and Jewish morality that guided us during the course of Operation Cast Lead," he said.
Clearing Israel of Wrongdoing
President Shimon Peres said Goldstone "should apologize to Israel," and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the U.N. to cancel the report.
"There are very few instances in which those who disseminate libels retract their libel," Netanyahu told ministers at Sunday's cabinet meeting.
"Goldstone himself said all of the things we have been saying all along are correct - that Israel never intentionally fired at civilians and that our inquiries operated according to the highest international standards," he said.
Hamas, on the other hand, targets and kills civilians intentionally, Netanyahu said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who held that same position during the operation, also called for the report's cancellation.
"I think he had to make sure the whole world, not just the readers of the Washington Post, will understand that he now knows he made a major mistake of judgment by issuing this report, and this report should be canceled," Barak said.
Israeli experts said that what was obvious to Israel at the time apparently wasn't to Justice Goldstone.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs published a report detailing what it said were "flaws in the Goldstone report, and especially its lack of balance."
At the time it was issued, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called the report a "cynical attempt at role reversal in blaming Israel for war crimes instead of terrorist organizations."
Calls to Cancel Report
In light of the admission, the American Center for Law and Justice, which helped defend Israel before the ICC, is also calling on the United Nations to withdraw the report and clear Israel of the accusations.
"This stunning reversal clearly underscores the fact that it is time to put this deeply flawed and biased report to rest," Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, said.
"From the very beginning we argued that the damaging allegations against Israel were false and without merit," he continued. It's time for the United Nations to rescind this report and close its unfounded inquiry against Israel without delay."
Even if the report is annulled, analysts say the damage to Israel's reputation has already been done, and the media fanfare that accompanied the original accusations against Israel won't likely resurface to acquit the Jewish state