WASHINGTON - Defense Minister Ehud Barak informed United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon on Monday that Israel will not cooperate with the UN investigative committee headed by South African Justice Richard Goldstone, which arrived in Israel earlier in the day to begin its probe into allegations of Israeli war crimes during Operation Cast Lead.
The two met in New York, and were joined by Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Professor Gabriella Shalev. Barak told the secretary general that Israel expects the organization, and the international community, to increase efforts to secure the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit.
The Iranian nuclear threat was also discussed at the meeting. Barak said Tehran "is endangering both regional and global stability. We insist that the economic sanctions on the Iranians be intensified."
The defense minister said however that "no options should be taken off the table – we say it, mean it, and recommend that others do the same."
Barak also briefed Ban on the 'Jenin Model' project, which has seen Palestinian Authority defense forces assuming responsibility over security in West Bank cities. He also expanded on the actions Israel is taking to improve the quality of day-to-day life for the Palestinians in the West Bank, including the removal of roadblocks and various economic initiatives.
'Committee won't look at terror attacks'
Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Barak explained that Israel would not cooperate with the UN investigation because by its very nature it cannot be objective. "The mandate that the Goldstone Committee got is to look into war crimes in regard to the operation in Gaza and from our experience, we well know that they will never be able to talk to the other side and to penetrate or to interrogate the series of terrorist operations along years, including thousands of rockets and missiles fell upon the heads of Israeli citizens in order to get an unbiased conclusion.
"And knowing the procedures by which such operations are taken, I don't think that Israel has to or will cooperate with this interrogation and I say this despite the fact that Judge Goldstone personally has a lot of respect all around the world," he said.
Asked whether Israel accepts the two-state solution, Barak said: "Israel wants peace with its neighbors. We are in favor of a regional process. This government recognizes all the agreements signed by previous governments, and that answers the question."
Barak will stay in New York today to meet with the US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. On Tuesday he will arrive in Washington for a series of meetings with administration officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor James Jones.