I just reread the Forward article about Richard Goldstone's reconsideration of his landmark report--"Did a private meeting prompt Goldstone to change his mind?" by Larry Cohler-Esses, Gal Beckerman and Claudia Braude-- and noticed an important angle in the piece that should not be lost: Goldstone's previous public record of not just rejecting Israel's exculpating claims regarding the 29 Al-Samouni family deaths--claims made in the IDF investigation he now lauds---but his rejection of the very nature of the Israeli investigation itself.
Read this section deep in the article, emphasis mine:
Some partisans, even on opposite sides, found it difficult to accept Goldstone’s own explanation of why he changed his mind about the nature of Israel’s culpability for an estimated 762 Palestinian non-combatant deaths... In his opinion piece Goldstone cited a new U.N. committee’s recent finding that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza.” Those military investigations, Goldstone wrote, “have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, [but] they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”
Goldstone’s acceptance of these closed investigations by the Israeli military of itself represented a dramatic turnaround. In an in-depth interview with the Forward in October 2009, he explicitly rejected such probes as inherently flawed.
“If I was advising Israel, I would say have open investigations,” he told the Forward then. He offered the example of Israel’s investigation into the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres by an independent panel appointed by Prime Minister Menachem Begin as a model to emulate. The call for an open and independent investigation was one he repeated at his May meeting in South Africa, citing this as “the first and primary” recommendation of his U.N. report.
The issue is not whether the findings of the IDF's Al-Samouni investigation are credible enough that Goldstone should accept them. The issue is, why is Goldstone abandoning his underlying a priori rejection of this kind of investigation to begin with? Earlier, he rejected self-investigation as fatally flawed precisely because such investigation is inherently attracted to exculpation--which is exactly what this investigation has produced. This would be a fatal credibility problem even if--especially if-- the exculpating explanation were correct.