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Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 16:27 UK

Goldstone row rumbles on in press

Paletsinians in West bank protesting
Palesinians have protested against the end of the the PA's support of the report

Israeli and Palestinian newspapers have been giving widely varying reactions to the UN Human Rights Council's decision on Friday to defer its response to the findings of the Goldstone report into alleged war crimes in Gaza.

Israeli commentators are divided between those who believe the report is a threat to Israel and greet its postponement with relief, and those who welcome it as a wake-up call to the country's establishment.

Most Palestinian writers, on the other hand, are furious at the UNHRC's decision, with even commentators normally supportive of President Mahmoud Abbas accusing him of caving in to US pressure and removing his backing from the report.

Report buried?

In an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Aluf Benn hails the postponement as an "important political achievement" for Prime Minister Benjamim Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

"Israel waged a multi-pronged diplomatic campaign that was meant to bury Goldstone's recommendations and to stop his initiative to try Israelis abroad", the commentator says, citing Mr Netanyahu's threat to withdraw from peace negotiations.

However, writing in the centristYediot Aharonot, Dov Weisglass, an adviser to former PM Ariel Sharon, warns against complacency, saying the Goldstone report had only been postponed. "It will come back," Mr Weisglass says.

Another Haaretz reporter, Amira Hass, voices concern about the fact that the UN Human Rights Council had only deferred its response in response to a phone call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, acting under pressure from the US.

"A great deal of political folly and short-sightedness was revealed by that phone call," she says, predicting that Abbas will have given many Palestinians the feeling that the militant group Hamas was the "real national leadership", and encouraged those who believe confrontation yields better results than negotiations.

Licence to kill

In contrast, Yitzhak Laor, writing in Haaretz, praises the UN report, saying that a "breath of fresh air" had "accompanied the panic that gripped the Israeli establishment" with the publication of its findings, which many observers felt could put Israeli ministers or army officers at risk of being arrested while travelling abroad.

"After years of total disdain for the international community, of violating laws and treaties... there are finally members of the military elite who can no longer travel... without first consulting their lawyers". This, the commentator feels, is "a good thing".

His view is not shared by Moshe Arens, a former defence minister from the right-wing Likud party, who describes the report as "a licence to kill - for Hamas, for Hezbollah, and for terrorists all over the world".

"Thank you, Justice Goldstone", he says. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".

Humiliating capitulation

In the Palestinian press, Abbas's intervention to persuade the UN to put off its response has been greeted with fury, even in papers normally loyal to the president's Fatah faction.

"This was a humiliating capitulation in the face of US and Israeli pressure", Hani al-Masri fumes in the pro-Fatah daily al-Ayyam.

Writing in another pro-Fatah paper, the privately-owned al-Quds, Rana Bisharah, says the postponement had effectively "aborted" the Goldstone report, adding that even a promise by Mahmoud Abbas to form a committee to investigate his decision to cease support for it would not correct matters.

"The only way to partially fix the damage is to take back the report to the UN as soon as possible," she says.

Weakest link

In the Hamas-run daily Filastin, commentator Fayiz Abu-Shammalah says the Palestinian people had lost patience with Mr Abbas and "his group".

"They can no longer be trusted to lead the Palestinian people and protect their rights and cause after this resounding and shameful scandal following the PA's withdrawal of the Goldstone report."

However, in a commentary by editor-in-chief Hafeth al-Barghouthi, the Palestinian Authority's own paper, al-Hayat al-Jadida, defends the PA's actions, saying it was not alone to blame.

"I think that Muslim countries contributed to the pressure exerted by Europe and the United States to prevent the presentation of the report," he says. "The powerless PA is but the weakest link here, and had no other choice but to give in."

BBC Monitoringselects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.



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