- By Stephen M. WaltStephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
I haven’t had time to read Richard Goldstone’s massive report on the war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during last year’s fighting in Gaza (though I have read the lengthy executive summary). I suspect most of the people who are now excoriating the report and denouncing Goldstone haven’t actually read the 500-plus page report either. Maybe that explains why much of the commentary just accuses Goldstone and his team of “bias” and attacks them personally but doesn’t refute the allegations in detail.
Nonetheless, it was disappointing that the Obama administration felt it had to denounce the report within days of its release, despite Goldstone’s impeccable credentials (former member of South Africa’s Constitutional Court and chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for Bosnia and Rwanda) and his strong Zionist convictions. Israeli PM Netanyahu hasn’t been doing Obama any favors of late, and the release of the report would have been a golden opportunity for Obama to play a little hardball and remind him that stiffing your principal patron has a price. And the Administration didn’t even have to endorse the report; all they had to do was refrain from criticizing it.
In other words, what if U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice had said something like this: “Richard Goldstone is a respected jurist with considerable experience on these issues, and the report contains disturbing information about the actions of both Hamas and Israel during the fighting last year. It deserves to be carefully read, because it demonstrates how important it is to achieve a lasting peace in the region and why the president is committed to that goal.” The message to Netanyahu would have been clear: If you want diplomatic cover from us, we’ll need more cooperation from you than we’ve been getting.
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