State Dep’t says Goldstone report ‘significantly retarded’ efforts to achieve Middle East peace

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I’ve been reading the Palestine Papers published by Al Jazeera and my chief impression is that the U.S. was Israel’s lawyer. There’s tons of pressure on the Palestinians to stop talking about the ’67 border, and meanwhile George Mitchell is expressing sorrowful regrets that the Israelis have not agreed to a settlement freeze. And Saeb Erekat is raging at the Americans: we began this process as a way to share historical Palestine, now it is a process about sharing the West Bank.

And Mitchell says, this is your best chance, with Obama, Malcolm Hoenlein doesn’t have a line into Obama (a reference to the Israel lobby), and we want you to have a state by 2011. Right, and how has that worked out?

Here is more indication of the U.S. role as dishonest broker. Read yesterday’s press briefing with ass’t sec’y of State PJ Crowley, in which it appears that a couple of reporters badger him over the fact that the U.S. pressured the Palestinian Authority to knock down the Goldstone report. Crowley says that the Goldstone report — on human rights violations during the Gaza massacre– “complicated and retarded” efforts to achieve Middle East peace. Why? Presumably because it hurt Israel and helped Hamas. That’s realpolitik for you, on Obama’s part. Trying to take Hamas completely out of the equation.

When in fact Goldstone could have been used to put pressure on Israel.

But notice in this exchange how American reporters are on to the fact that the U.S. will do nothing to hurt Israel, and they push Crowley on this point. I.e., it is well known inside State that the U.S. is Israel’s lawyer, and it’s demolishing our image in the Middle East. I believe Matt Lee of AP is one of the reporters…

QUESTION: A question about the efforts for peace in the Middle East. Al Jazeera has learned that the United States put a lot of pressure on the Palestinian Authority in October of 2009 to stonewall the Goldstone report and to refrain from going to any international organizations to seek legal relief or redress. Why was the United States insistent that the PA don’t go to any international organizations?

MR. CROWLEY: And how would you know this?

QUESTION: Well, we’ve learned this from documents that we have.

MR. CROWLEY: All right. And we’re not going to talk —

QUESTION: Well, actually, it was public knowledge at the time.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would say – I am just – we’re not going to talk about any documents. The issue of bringing up the Goldstone report was a subject of significant controversy within the Human Rights Council. There were formal and – sessions on that. Our view was well-stated at the time, that we did not think that the Human Rights Council was the appropriate forum to consider the issues in the Goldstone report. We made that clear publicly. We made that clear to the Palestinians. That’s actually, as Matt suggested, not new news.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up. I mean, the Palestinian Authority subsequently rejected the Goldstone report, then they accepted it, then they rejected it. And they came in from withering criticism, just – not only from the Palestinian people, but also from neighboring Arab states. Why did the United States not anticipate at that time that there would be a question mark over the credibility of the PA when they did that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, at the – as I recall, at the time that the report was commissioned, the United States was not a member of the Human Rights Council. We’ve made our – we have made our views clear about this issue in the context of the Human Rights Council, in the context of the report itself. We’ve not been shy about criticizing the findings of the Goldstone report. We recognize that that, at the time, significantly complicated and retarded efforts to achieve Middle East peace. So again, we’re very much on the record on these issues already.

QUESTION: Well, but – yet isn’t it a fact that you didn’t like the Goldstone report and you didn’t want the Palestinians to raise it in the council because you thought it would be unfair to Israel?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we’ve —

QUESTION: Isn’t that correct?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve got a very strong and public record regarding our views of the Goldstone report.

QUESTION: So the answer to that is yes, right?

MR. CROWLEY: The answer to that is you –

QUESTION: You thought it would be unfairly —

MR. CROWLEY: If you want me to do a dramatic recitation —

QUESTION: You thought it would be unfairly – no, no, no. You thought it would be unfairly —

MR. CROWLEY: — of our view of the Goldstone report, I’ll be happy to —

QUESTION: You thought it – there is a point to the reason —


QUESTION: There is a point to my question. The reason that you thought – that you didn’t support the Goldstone report, it was because you thought it would be, and then you thought that it turned out to be, unfairly critical of Israel. Isn’t that a fact?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the fact is that our concern all along, independent of the contents of the Goldstone report, which we did not think was fair, was —

QUESTION: So you could just say yes and that would be —

MR. CROWLEY: Hey, all right, fine, but we – it has been borne out in terms of the effect that the Goldstone report at the time, and subsequently, had on our ability to move the parties into a direct negotiation. That has had a material effect on a delay in getting the process started and has complicated our efforts over the past two years.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I’ll take that as an answer, “Yes,” to my question that, “Isn’t it a fact that that’s the reason?” So isn’t it also a fact that there was serious disagreement within the Palestinian Authority about what to do about this —

MR. CROWLEY: Again, that —

QUESTION: — that initially, they agreed with you not to do it, that they came under —

MR. CROWLEY: As to —

QUESTION: — huge pressure at home and they did do it?

MR. CROWLEY: As to the issues of – I mean, there were lots of conversations about —

QUESTION: I just remember all of this being on the record —

MR. CROWLEY: I was going to say – but —

QUESTION: — back at the time, so I —

MR. CROWLEY: I will defer to the Palestinians to describe their conversations with other governments that had an interest in this report.

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