The notorious Goldstone report is back in the headlines. And with it comes the painful reminder of Israel's war in Gaza last winter, coupled with the scurrilous suggestion that Israel committed war crimes in its effort to halt the barrage of Hamas rockets that had terrorized its southern population for years.
Israel's Foreign Ministry released its initial rebuttal to the Goldstone findings last week and was expected to submit its final report on Friday, in time for the deadline set by the U.N. commission that investigated Israel's three-week war against Hamas in what it dubbed Operation Cast Lead.
Jerusalem's decision to respond to the report was a difficult but wise one. From the start, Israel has acknowledged that mistakes, some tragic, were inevitable as it fought Hamas operatives hiding among its own civilian population. But Israel's military and political leaders expressed fear all along that responding to the charges would hurt Israel's military morale and, even more importantly, undermine Israel's future right to self-defense.
The early report details an internal military inquiry by the Israel Defense Force, which has launched investigations into 150 separate incidents, 36 of which have been referred for criminal investigation.
It also said that Israel had rebuked two senior officers for firing white phosphorous shells that hit a U.N. compound during the war in what Israel called "a violation of the rules of engagement prohibiting use of such artillery near populated areas."
Despite Israel's efforts, the Goldstone battle is not yet over. The U.N. commission threatened to bring Israel — and Hamas — to the International Criminal Court at the Hague if both parties did not conduct their own independent judicial inquiries.
The question is: How far should Israel go to satisfy the demands of an international body that almost never gives it a fair shake?
We are inclined to agree with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has rightly blasted the Goldstone report repeatedly, though argues that Israel should conduct an independent judicial review — for its own sake.
"Not that its results would ever satisfy the world's numerous Israel-bashers," Dershowitz writes in The Jerusalem Post.
Instead, he argues, "it ought to be conducted to satisfy Israel and supporters of Israel that no stone has been left unturned."
Israel is once again between a rock and a hard place.
It will likely never satisfy its international critics, but by continuing the path of inquiry, it shows once again the stark contrast between its own soul-searching and that of Hamas, which has cynically concluded that those who fired rockets into Israel had no intention of killing civilians. If that were the case, there would been no need for the war in the first place.