Let's say it again: the report is by a highly respected jurist, with impeccable credentials, a Jew himself, with deep ties to Israel. In a new, excellent op-ed piece on the New Majority site (in which she harshly critiques - with good reason - George Gilder's new book), Hillary Mann Levett notes that Goldstone is
one of the world’s most eminent jurists, who is, along with his many other accomplishments, a trustee of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a board member of Brandeis University’s Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.
He has called it as he sees it. That the US can so readily dismiss the report is, as I said yesterday, shameful. For the Netanyahu government, it's business as usual.
But it's not hard to see the political calculations underlying the US stance. Obama is desperate for some kind of movement in the "peace process" - so, from his perspective, this is not the time for the US to drive Netanyahu away by letting Israel swing in the wind of international reaction to Goldstone. Instead, the US and Israel will clamor for blame for what happened in Gaza to be laid at the feet of Hamas.
Talk about easy pickings for the US. We have long declared Hamas to be "bad guys" - which makes therefore all the Palestinians in Gaza guilty by association. Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas, on the other hand, is our official Palestinian "good guy." After Yasser Arafat died in 2004, he became George Bush's and Ariel Sharon's regular go-to guy for sunny photo-ops to show how dedicated they were to the "peace process." For those reasons, among many others, Abbas' credibility among most Palestinians - and most Arabs across the Middle East, not to mention Iranians - is zilch.
But Abbas has also been a long-time leader of Fatah, the Palestinian nationalist party that was long headed by Arafat and that is the bitter, entrenched enemy of Hamas. Hamas threw Fatah out of Gaza, after the US sponsored an attempted Fatah coup against the Hamas leadership there. Abbas, therefore, has no problem watching the US and Israel dis the Goldstone report, at least to the extent that they can take swings at Hamas in the process. And actually, Abbas has no real choice here. Any luster that he still may have, he owes to their support.
But does Obama understand that by doing this, he's only damaging his own initiatives?
He's quite likely driving the wedge between Hamas and Fatah even deeper. Without some reconciliation between these two factions, the Israelis can continue to use Hamas as the pretext for resisting the creation of a real Palestinian state - something to which Obama supposedly is committed.
By rejecting the Goldstone report, Obama rejects the possibility that Israel can be held accountable for its actions when it comes to brutalities inflicted on Palestinians. Hereafter, he can hardly claim that the US can be a fair broker between the two sides.
By backing Israel in the face of such a credible, yet damning report, Obama puts the lie to his Cairo speech to the Muslim world, to his Nowruz greetings to the Iranian people, and to any future initiatives he might take to demonstrate American fairness and goodwill when it comes to the Middle East.