April 03, 2011

Israel holds secret talks with Russia in bid to thwart recognition of Palestinian state Isaac Molho, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior adviser and top negotiator on the Palestinian channel, made a secret trip to Moscow on Wednesday and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The purpose of the visit was to dissuade Russia from supporting the European Union’s intention to present in two weeks’ time a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Molho was accompanied on the trip by the Foreign Ministry’s legal advisor, Daniel Taub, and spent over an hour with Lavrov. Taub and Molho also met with the Russian envoy to the Middle East, Sergei Yakovlev, and other senior Russian officials. A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that Taub and Molho used the visit “to present new Israeli ideas for re-launching the peace process with the Palestinians.” The visit comes just two weeks before the foreign ministers of the Quartet − the United States, Russia, the European Union and the UN − are to meet. France, Germany and the United Kingdom are pushing for announcing a new international peace initiative. The principles of the initiative known so far include setting up two states on the basis of the 1967 borders with territorial swaps; a fair, realistic and agreed-upon solution to the predicament of the Palestinian refugees; Jerusalem as a capital for both states and security arrangements that would protect Israel but not infringe on Palestinian sovereignty.
Goldstone Retracts War Crimes Claim against Israel The chairman of the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding team that accused Israel of possibly committing war crimes during the 2008-09 Gaza war effectively retracted those claims on Friday [April 1] in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post. Judge Richard Goldstone, of the UN’s Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead, said in The Washington Post that if he had known then what he knew now, the report would have been different. He said Israel’s own investigations into the war which were recognized in a UN follow-up committee’s report have indicated that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” The Israelis welcomed Goldstone’s comments, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying in a statement posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site that the UN should shelve the original Goldstone Report. “Everything we said has proven to be true: Israel did not intentionally harm civilians, its institutions and investigative bodies are worthy, while Hamas intentionally fired upon innocent civilians and did not examine anything [of accusations of war crimes],” said Netanyahu. “The fact that Goldstone backtracked must lead to the shelving of this report once and for all.” Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev, in an interview with Bridges for Peace, noted the importance of Goldstone’s comments. “We think that this is a very significant admission,” said Regev. “Ultimately, if the author of the report says the report is not accurate, there’s no reason for the United Nations to lend any credence to this report.”


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