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Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show that Susan E. Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, endeavoured to squelch the findings of two investigations into war crimes by Israel and Hamas during Operation Cast Lead, according to Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy.Rice first suppressed the findings of an independent UN investigation into attacks by the Israeli defence Force on UN facilities. Second, She decried the Goldstone Report filed by The U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as “deeply flawed and biased”.
Foreign Policy reports on Rice’s exchange with Secretary General Ban on the findings of the independent UN investigation:
“Given that those recommendations were outside the scope of the Board’s terms of reference, she asked that those two recommendations not be included in the summary of the report that would be transmitted to the membership,” according to an account contained in the May 4 cable. Ban initially resisted. “The Secretary-General said he was constrained in what he could do since the Board of Inquiry is independent; it was their report and recommendations and he could not alter them, he said,” according to the cable.
But Rice persisted, insisting in a subsequent call that Ban should at least “make clear in his cover letter when he transmits the summary to the Security Council that those recommendations exceeded the scope of the terms of reference and no further action is needed.” Ban offered no initial promise. She subsequently drove the point home again, underlining the “importance of having a strong cover letter that made clear that no further action was needed and would close out this issue.”
After completing the cover letter, Ban phoned back Rice to report that he believed “they had arrived at a satisfactory cover letter. Rice thanked the Secretary-General for his exceptional efforts on such a sensitive issue.”
With the Goldstone Report, Rice found a window to broker US backed-peace process in the Middle East. Foreign Policy reports on her interaction with Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon:
She asked Ayalon to “help me help you” by embracing the peace process and highlighting Israel’s capacity to hold its own troops accountable for possible misconduct. She underscored that the Goldstone Report could be more easily managed if there was positive progress on the peace process, according to the cable. She also advised Israel that it “would be helpful” if it would emphasise its own judicial process and investigations” into the matter.
Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge who led the investigation by the UNHRC has since changed his stance on the report. In an editorial published by the Washington Post:
Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn’t negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.
Rice continues to stick to her guns.