Israel wants law of war changed after damning UN Gaza report

YAHOO JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his government on Tuesday to draw up proposals to amend the international laws of war after a damning UN report on its war in Gaza.

The security cabinet did not, however, discuss calls made by ministers for an internal investigation into the 22-day offensive at the turn of the year that killed some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, an official told AFP.

"The prime minister instructed the relevant government bodies to examine a worldwide campaign to amend the international laws of war to adapt them to the spread of global terrorism," his office said in a statement.

Israel was dealt a heavy diplomatic blow with the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of the report that accused both Israel and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip of war crimes.

Israel's closest allies, the United States, Britain and France urged it to investigate war crime allegations raised by the fact-finding missions headed by Richard Goldstone, a former international war crimes prosecutor.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak backed Netanyahu's call for a diplomatic campaign, saying that Israel should propose changes in the international laws of war "in order to facilitate the war on terrorism," an official quoted him as saying.

"It is in the interest of anyone fighting terrorism. We must give the IDF (Israeli army) the full backing to have the freedom of action," Barak said.

Netanyahu dismissed the Goldstone report on the Gaza war and vowed that Israel would not give up its right of self-defence.

"We are struggling to delegitimise the ongoing attempts to delegitimise Israel... We must persistently fight this lie, which is being spread by the Goldstone report," Netanyahu was quoted as saying.

"I want to make it clear: no one will weaken our ability and right to defend our children, citizens and communities."

Meanwhile, hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, reiterating Israel's stance that peace talks with the Palestinians could not progress amid international support for the Goldstone report.

Lieberman said Palestinian support for the report "raises real questions about the true intentions of the Palestinians: Is it the establishment of a Palestinian state or the destruction of the State of Israel?" he said according to a statement from his office.

Goldstone, the respected South African jurist who led the UN fact-finding team, recommended that the conclusions of the report be forwarded to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague if the two sides fail to conduct credible investigations into the conflict within six months.

Israel has slammed it as a "diplomatic farce" and warned that it risked sinking the stalled Middle East peace process.

Goldstone, who has faced a storm of personal attacks inside Israel since the report's publication, dismissed the argument and urged the Jewish state to comply with the recommendation to investigate the war.

"It's a shallow, utterly false allegation," Goldstone said during a meeting with a group of rabbis in the United States, remarks aired on Monday by Israeli public radio.

"What peace process are they talking about? There isn't one. The Israeli foreign minister doesn't want one," Goldstone said.