"The comparison between those who pursue terror and terror victims is inconceivable," a source close to Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday, after the release of the Goldstone Report – the UN inquest into the Israeli offensive in Gaza in early 2009.
The report, added the source, "Not only rewards terror it also encourages it... The defense establishment is gearing to give legal counsel to IDF officers and the proper legal and diplomatic steps are already underway in order to render this report invalid."
Experts: Report may lead to private lawsuits
UN probe: Evidence of war crimes in Gaza conflict
The United Nations said the investigation led by former South African judge Goldstone concluded that "Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity," during its Dec. 27-Jan. 18 military operations in the Palestinian territories.
The global body said the report "concludes there is also evidence that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity," by firing rockets into southern Israel.
The report accuses Israel of violating international law and possibly committing war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. Similar accusations, however, are also made regarding Hamas – the report condemns the groups' rocket fire on Israel, as well as IDF soldier Gilad Shalit's captivity, which the report said does not coincide with conventions meant to ensure treatment of prisoners of war.
Government sources told Ynet that while both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak viewed the findings gravely, they have decided to no issue any formal response at this time. Netanyahu instructed all the ministers to do the same.
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The prime minister intends to study the 575-page report – and its possible repercussions – thoroughly; especially those pertaining to possible UN and International Crimes Court (ICC) actions.
Jerusalem's main concern at this time is that a report by a seemingly ephemeral, biased body, will harm international relations. Netanyahu wished to refute the report completely.
'New level of Israel-bashing'
Minister of Information Yuli Edelstein said the report "exceeded the limits of Israel-bashing that we've become accustomed to. Making such allegations disguised as 'protecting human rights' is more than a stretch."
The Foreign Ministry issued the following statement: "(The report) fails to mention the word 'terrorists' and the same Hamas operatives, who kidnapped Gilad Shalit, are lauded for their support of the committee's work.
"The fact that the operation followed years of incessant rocket fire on civilians, as well as the wide support it was given by the Israeli public, is not mentioned at all… This report sends a very troubling message to terror groups, according to which the cynical use of civilian suffering for political gain actually bears fruit."
The ministry also protested the contradiction between Goldstone's assertion that the committee "did not reach any legal conclusions" and the fact that the "report was fashioned as a legal document and included explicit allegations."
The ministry further admonished the committee for not dismissing members who made anti-Israeli statements.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriella Shalev told Ynet that the report came as no surprise to Israel: "This is a unilateral, political report which ignores the thousands of Hamas missiles which brought about the Gaza operation and it ignores Hamas' strategy of using civilians as human shields."
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the report detailed the "crimes perpetrated by occupation (forces) in the war," adding his government facilitated the committee's as best it could.
Haniyeh did not comment on the report's condemnation of Hamas rocket fire on Israel.
Earlier Tuesday, senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan said the Islamist group rejects the "political imbalance" of the UN report: "The report puts those who committed the crimes and those who fought against them on the same level," he said
Ali Waked and AFP contributed to this report