"The (Goldstone Report) is biased and false; I unequivocally reject it," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday just hours after it was reported that two senior IDF officers were disciplined for exceeding their authority during the war in Gaza, a little over a year ago.
Speaking at a forum of senior IDF commanders, Barak said that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "very impressed" with Israel's response to the Goldstone Report and claimed it would be a mistake to set up an commission of inquiry to investigate the report's conclusions. He said a team of legal experts would be sufficient in order to probe the military's conduct and operations during Operation Cast Lead.
"The political echelon instructs the high command on how to act, and the high command passes the orders down to the fighters. The fighters carry out the mission in the name of the State of Israel and on its behalf," Barak told the forum.
"Investigating military operations upon their conclusion is necessary in order to make certain that army will perform even better in future campaigns ," he added.
Addressing Israel's security issues, Barak said a full-blown war with Syria is possible in case a peace agreement is not reached. "Such is the reality in the Middle East. After such a war ends we will sit and negotiate on the same exact issues we've been discussing with the Syrians for the past 15 years," he said.
"The Middle East is a rough neighborhood. There is no mercy for the weak here, and no second chances. A peace agreement will not be reached as long as the other side believes Israel is weak or can be lured into a diplomatic honey trap."
As for Iran, the defense minister cast doubt on the Obama Administration's ability to rally support for increased sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program. "I repeat – as far as we are concerned, all options are on the table," he stated.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the punishment of the two officers was "clear proof" that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza. He said the rulings were a "preemptive step" to escape war crimes prosecution, and urged the international community to put Israelis on trial. He made no mention of the charges against Hamas.
AP contributed to the report