JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a lengthy diplomatic battle to "delegitimise" United Nations charges that Israel committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip, an official said.
The U.N. Human Rights Council singled out the Jewish state for censure in a resolution on October 16, while endorsing a report by South African jurist Richard Goldstone which condemned both Israeli and Hamas actions in a war last December and January.
Netanyahu, who has said the Goldstone report could undermine U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace moves, was quoted as saying on October 17 that Israel would wage a protracted struggle against the criticism.
"Israel must delegitimize the delegitimization," Netanyahu said, according to an Israeli official. He said the campaign "would not take just a week or two but possibly years".
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on October 16 that "Israel totally and completely" rejected the U.N. council's vote condemning Israel but not the Palestinian Islamist faction. However, Ayalon added that he thought Israel would not ultimately suffer any significant consequences.
Twenty-five states including China and Russia endorsed the resolution passed by the council meeting in Geneva, while six including the United States voted against, charging that the resolution was one-sided. Eleven states abstained. Four, including France and Britain, did not vote at all.
The resolution endorsed Goldstone's recommendation that the war crimes issue be referred to the U.N. Security Council if the sides failed to conduct credible domestic investigations within six months, and possibly then to the International Criminal Court.
It did not mention Hamas, which Goldstone also criticised for its actions in the Gaza war. Palestinians say that as many as 1,387 Palestinians died, among them many civilians, while 13 Israelis were killed.
Israel had said it launched the war in response to Hamas rocket attacks that had terrorized residents of Israeli towns bordering on the Gaza Strip for several years, though they caused few casualties.
Palestinians called for further U.N. inquiries into Israel's actions. "The international community should make sure that the decision will become a precedent that will ensure the protection of the Palestinian people from any aggression," said Nabil Abu Rdaineh, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.