Inside the General Assembly debate on the Goldstone Report; UPDATE V (Final Vote)

Today is a big day of debate and maneuvering at the General Assembly over a resolution on the Goldstone Report. The end results of these negotiations will foretell the degree of support that the resolution will receive when it comes to a vote, likely tomorrow. (See this post from yesterday for more on the substance of the resolution and the EU’s proposed edits.)

The big question is whether or not the EU will end up supporting the resolution. A close watcher of today’s General Assembly discussion passes along these observations:

There is currently a divide within the EU group as to what language can be accepted in the resolution on Goldstone. The resolution currently reads, “Endorses the report of the Human Rights Council on its Twelfth Special Session of 15-16 October 2009”. This is unacceptable to the EU members [particularly the Netherlands and Italy] who either voted against or abstained from voting at the special HRC session.

The question is now whether the sentence will be taken out, in which case the EU will either abstain or vote in favor of the resolution. If not, the draft will most likely not receive important backing from the EU, leaving the Palestinian delegation to add more hard line language on Israel. The Palestinian delegation and the EU are currently engaged in consultations on this issue, with an outcome expected this evening


The observer also adds, “The U.S. has made the decision to speak after the vote (as an explanation of vote). There are currently 43 speakers on the list…and the session is likely to continue tomorrow. Consequently, the vote and the U.S. statement will also take place tomorrow.”  We’ll update as new information comes to light as to whether or not the offending clause is deleted.


UPDATE:  Our source at the GA says,EU Ambassadors are currently meeting to discuss the joint EU position on the Goldstone draft resolution, which remains unclear. It looks like the majority of the EU would vote yes on a resolution where “endorse”  is replaced by less strong language, such as “takes note” or even “takes note with appreciation.”  Some of the EU hardliners are expected to vote against this. However, if the Palestinian delegation does not alter the language in the draft as it stands now, this will all change.”

UPDATE II:  From our GA insider this morning:  “The Swedish Presidency has received a counter-proposal from the Palestinians to amend two perambulatory clauses, as well as the operative clause which “endorses” the report of the Human Rights Council on its Twelfth Special Session of 15-16 October 2009 to instead read “welcomes”.

According to the Swedish presidency, these changes may not be sufficient to secure ample EU consensus to support the resolution. Several delegations will have a hard time “welcoming” the report, and have been checking back with capitals overnight for further instructions. The European ambassadors have been meeting this morning to discuss the counter-proposal. However, EU “hardliners” may still not go along with the new formulations.”   


The drama continues! 


UPDATE III: Big news, I am told, “the Palestinians have rejected the proposed EU language modifications, which means that delegations will be voting on the original draft resolution which reads ‘endorses the HRC report.’ Action is not likely to be taken before 5 o’clock.” 

It will be interesting to see how widespread the support for the GA resolution will be considering the language may now be too harsh for many European countries. 


UPDATE IV:  The USA votes against the resolution, not surprisingly.  Here is the explanation of the the vote from Deputy Perm Rep, Ambassador Alejandro Wolff:

The United States remains deeply concerned about the human suffering of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples that results from the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. The best way to end that suffering is to bring about a comprehensive peace in the region, including two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The United States is firmly committed to pursuing that goal. As we urge the parties to restart permanent status negotiations leading to the creation of a Palestinian state, we should all be seeking to advance the cause of peace—and doing nothing to hinder it.

The United States strongly supports accountability for human rights and humanitarian law violations in relation to the Gaza conflict. Our goal is to achieve genuine accountability in a way that respects internal processes and the ongoing efforts to restart permanent status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

As the United States made clear in Geneva, we believe that the Goldstone Report is deeply flawed—including its unbalanced focus on Israel, its sweeping conclusions of law, the excessively negative inferences it draws about Israel’s intentions and actions, its failure to deal adequately with the asymmetrical nature of the Gaza conflict, its failure to assign appropriate responsibility to Hamas for its decision to base itself and its operations in heavily civilian-populated urban areas, and its many overreaching recommendations.

First, let me point out that we appreciate that the resolution under consideration calls on both Israel and the Palestinians—although it does not name Hamas—to pursue investigations of the allegations that pertain to each of them in the Report. This is an advance over the original one-sided mandate provided by the Human Rights Council to the Goldstone Commission. We will continue to call for all parties to meet their responsibilities and pursue credible domestic investigations.

Nevertheless, we also have real concerns about this resolution.

Given the far-reaching legal conclusions and recommendations of the 575-page Goldstone Report, including findings that have serious implications for conflicts in other parts of the world, we do not think it appropriate to endorse the Report in its entirety.

Attempting, as this resolution does, to press the Security Council to take this matter up is equally unconstructive. The Security Council is already seized of the situation in the Middle East and holds monthly meetings on the topic, the only subject on the Council’s entire agenda that is discussed with such frequency. As many member states have made clear, the appropriate forum for discussion of this report is the Human Rights Council.

The resolution also unhelpfully introduces international supervision of the investigations to be undertaken by the parties that would interfere with the parties’ ability to conduct their own processes.

The proposed convocation of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention is also unnecessary and unproductive. Convening a conference of the Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention for the purpose of spotlighting one country would only heighten divisions and could set back the process of restarting permanent status negotiations. This and the other imbalanced references to the parties throughout the text—including the failure to mention Hamas by name—convey the impression that this body is, yet again, handling Arab-Israeli issues in an unbalanced manner.

 For these reasons, we will vote against the resolution. But we believe that lifesaving progress can be made if we can lift our sights and look toward a more hopeful future. The United States will continue to work resolutely in pursuit of a just and lasting peace.


Thank you Mr. President.

UPDATE V: Here is the final vote count, by country.  There were 114 Yes votes, 18 No votes, and 44 abstentions.






Picture: flickr.