Only a few days after retracting his report on Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip, South African Judge, Richard Goldstone, said will be happy to visit Israel next summer, starting his tour with Sderot settlement, south of the country. Goldstone said that he “bears great love to Israel” and looks forwards to tour the country, Israeli daily, Yedioth Aharonoth, reported.
For the first time since he published his report in which he said that both Israel and the Hamas movement in Gaza committed war crimes by targeting civilian areas, the United States and Israel cheered for Goldstone after withdrawing his report, while a number of Israeli officials demanded him to offer an official apology.
Yedioth Aharonoth reported Tuesday that Israeli Interior Minister, Elie Yishai, had a phone conversation with Goldstone on Monday evening and invited him to visit Israel.
Goldstone grabbed the invitation immediately and said that he will be glad to visit Israel and be hosted by the Interior Minister.
The paper added that former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, who was part of the phone interview between Goldstone and Yishai, spoke of the “good relations that linked him with Goldstone”, when Gillerman worked as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations”.
Yishai and Gillerman said that this visit will “improve the image of Goldstone in front of the Israeli public”, especially after his report the condemned Israel for its atrocities in Gaza.
They added that Goldstone’s visit will have positive effects, especially since he will be visiting the Israeli Negev settlement of Sderot.
US Department of State, also cheered for the latest events, while State Department Deputy Spokesperson, Mark Toner, said that the stances of the United States remained the same since the Goldstone report was published, adding that “no evidence was presented to back the claim that Israel targeted civilians”.
Meanwhile, a UN Human Rights Council spokesperson, stated that the report cannot be withdrawn without going through the official channels, as Goldstone need to file an official request to the Council in this regard.
Visiting Washington, Israeli President, Shimon Peres, met on Monday with US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, and the two discussed the strong relations between Tel Aviv and Washington in addition to discussing Goldstone’s latest statements regarding withdrawing his report.
Peres plans to hold a meeting with American President, Barack Obama, on Tuesday.
Goldstone’s report was on the three-week Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip (December 27 2008 – January 18 2009) in which Israel bombarded civilian areas including hospitals, mosques, schools, infrastructure and UNRWA facilities killing at least 1419 Palestinians, while thousands were injured, hundreds seriously.
Israel used Phosphorous shells that, by International Law, cannot be used against civilian areas.
The majority of the casualties were civilians, including children, infants and elderly, in addition to medics and members of the civil defense and emergency services.
On the Israeli side, 13 Israelis were killed; nine of them were soldiers invading Gaza, and at least three of the soldiers were killed by friendly fire.