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Israel declares victory as PA backs down at UNHRC

Oct. 2, 2009 5:40 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 3, 2009 10:15 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an/Agencies - While Palestinians representing virtually every segment of society condemned the Palestinian Authority for reversing its support for justice Richard Goldstone's UN report on the Gaza assault, the Israelis were celebrating.

Just before Sukkot began on Thursday night, Israel's ambassador to Geneva announced that the PA's inability to take a stand "is proof of the right strategy taken by the Israeli government and Foreign Ministry, by warning that adopting the repot could harm the peace process."

The ambassador, Leshno Yaar, told the the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks the same day contributed to the PA's decision, and that even Israel's ultranationalist foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, helped to "undermine" the report.

The Jerusalem Post's Friday morning front page read, "Goldstone crisis averted till March," reporting that the PA dropped support for the report backed by the Human Rights Council, despite having a clear majority at the UN body, and quoting the Israeli ambassador as saying that the decision legitimized Israel's stance.

"What happened today is proof that [the Israeli government's] strategy of not cooperating [with the probe]," Yaar said, "was correct."

"Israel insisted from the beginning that this was about politics against the State of Israel and not human rights," the paper quoted him as adding. "It emphasized the primacy of the peace process. It is a precedent for all states fighting terror."

In a separate op-ed Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arabic-speaking staff writer, editorialized that the PA's "actions and rhetoric, especially in the past few weeks and months, show that hypocrisy has become a major component of its official policy."

"During the day, Israel is the enemy that continues to deny the Palestinians their rights, seize their lands, arrest and kill their innocents, and expand existing settlements," Abu Toameh continued. "During the night, the Israeli enemy becomes a friend and peace partner with whom it's legitimate to conduct security coordination and eat in fancy restaurants."

The apparent victory on Friday was seen as the result of 48 hours of pressure from Israel's Foreign Ministry, and perhaps even the United States, on the PA to drop support for the draft, which it had previously called unbiased and accurate. It came just over a week since President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to meet in New York with Netanyahu without a settlement freeze.

The Associated Press quoted a senior US official as saying the latest PA backtracking came after "intense diplomacy" from American officials. "The Palestinians recognized that this was not the best time to go forward with this."

Deputy Prime Minister Danny Ayalon, of Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, took things further a day prior to the vote, urging the Fatah-backed PA to not only help Israel at the UN, but alleging that the mainstay Palestinian faction supported Israel during the Gaza assault, itself.

The Fatah movement is "now trying to take us into the international court," Ayalon said before the scheduled summit, even though it had "pushed us to do away with Hamas" during the assault, itself, which left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead by mid-January.

"[W]e are trying to negotiate with the Palestinians to achieve something good, we can not be under constant attacks by the same Palestinians," he said, hours before the PA dropped its support for the report. "Attacks today in the complex battles can be done through grenades or bullets, or through words. Sometimes words can be more dangerous."

For his part, Yedioth Ahronoth also quoted chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat as saying the PA had no intention of dropping their support.

"We are not members of the Human Rights Council. We are there as observers," he said. "The Council of Islamic States is working in order to have the body adopt the report. The decision stands, and this report is untrue. There has been no change in our position."
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