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Netanyahu vows to block war crimes trials

Israel's prime minister says the UN investigation of war crimes committed in Gaza poses a threat to Israel's right of self-defence and that no Israeli would be allowed to face trial in The Hague. The opposition leader Tzipi Livni provided a scathing assessment of Mr Netanyahu's progress since taking office in March: 'We defeated America, we humiliated the Palestinians and we isolated ourselves.'

The Knesset, Israel's parliament, opened its winter session on Monday with the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu launching a vigorous attack on the Goldstone report which recently determined that Israel had committed war crimes during its assault on Gaza at the turn of the year. Mr Netanyahu dedicated most of his speech to a harsh attack on the United Nations report and said: "We will not let [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert, [former foreign minister] Tzipi Livni and [defense minister] Ehud Barak, who sent our sons to war, reach The Hague International Criminal Court." Mr Netanyahu, who this summer conceded that a Palestinian state needs to be created but only on condition that it be a demilitarised state, said: "The right for a Jewish state and the right to self defense are two of the basic principles of our people. These two elements are interwoven: Without a state of our own we cannot defend ourselves and without the right to self defense, we cannot run our own country." Suggesting that the Goldstone report undermines Israel's right of self-defense, he said: "These basic rights are under continuous assault, gaining momentum since the Second Lebanon War [in 2006] and Operation Cast Lead. We must repel this onslaught." Speaking after Mr Netanyahu, the Kadima party and opposition leader Tzipi Livni poured scorn on her political adversary. "I would like to congratulate Israel's prime minister for achieving this government's main goal: survival. Your second achievement - and unfortunately that's the way you see it - you succeeded in not doing anything at all," she said. Ms Livni provided a scathing assessment of Mr Netanyahu's progress since taking office in March: "We defeated America, we humiliated the Palestinians and we isolated ourselves." "When the prime minister thinks he wins, all of Israel loses," she said. She warned Mr Netanyahu that if he remained complacent, a Palestinian nation will arise and "it will not be the one you fear so much, but a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and it will rise by the simple power of the right to vote." The Israeli president Shimon Peres, who spoke prior to Mr Netanyahu, stressed the importance of attaining peace with the Palestinians, warning against an option of Israel turning into a "de facto single state with two nations" that would "be alone, isolated, and solely responsible for all the territories." Instead, Mr Peres urged the state to "try every option in order to put an end to more than 100 years of quarrel and bloodshed," The Jerusalem Post reported. "As I see it, the States of Israel cannot fully be built as long as the peace process is unfulfilled," Mr Peres said. "I am aware of those who say we have no Palestinian partner, and it's true, from a sentimental standpoint, there is no partner for peace." "The peace that we have and the peace that is to come will not be romantic," the Israeli president added. "It won't come from love. It will come from necessity." Meanwhile, The National reported: "Almost 1,000 lawsuits alleging war crimes by Israeli ministers and military personnel have now been filed around the world, Israel has admitted. "And the situation could become immeasurably worse for Israel's politicians and soldiers as efforts continue to have the Goldstone report, which accuses Israel and Hamas of crimes against humanity during last winter's Gaza Strip invasion, raised at the United Nations. "Last week, Moshe Yaalon, one of four deputies to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, cancelled a planned fundraising trip to Britain because he feared arrest on war-crimes warrants issued by human rights and pro-Palestinian groups. "The week before, the defence minister, Ehud Barak, only avoided arrest on a visit to the British Labour Party conference in Brighton after a court ruled that he had diplomatic immunity. "Israelis travelling without such diplomatic protection now face the possibility of arrest in many countries across the globe, including Norway, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Holland and Canada." The Guardian reported: "Turkey's foreign minister has confirmed that his government cancelled joint military exercises, due to start today with Israel, because of concerns over Gaza. "The move is a clear sign the offensive 10 months ago is still causing the Jewish state diplomatic damage. "Just days before the Nato air exercises with Israel were due to begin in Turkey's Anatolian region, Ankara told the Israeli military it was no longer invited to attend. As a result, the US and Italy also opted not to take part and the war games were called off." Ynet said: "[Israel's] Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday during a closed-door discussion, 'In spite of the ups and downs, Turkey continues to be a central figure in our region. There is no place for getting drawn into fiery statements against them.' "According to Barak, 'The relations between Israel and Turkey are strategic and have existed for dozens of years.' "The cabinet ministers discussed Israeli-Turkish relations. Consultations were also held in the prime minister's office and in the foreign ministry. Jerusalem is trying to defuse the tensions created by Turkey's recent barring of Israel's participation in an upcoming Nato exercise slated to take place in central Turkey." In Haaretz, Zvi Bar'el noted: "Turkey did not hide its deep opposition to Israel's policies in the territories in general and to Operation Lead Cast in particular. Erdogan's outburst against President Shimon Peres last January at the Davos gathering did not stem from Islamist or pro-Iranian objectives. "Erdogan's support for a UN deliberation of the Goldstone Report and his declaration that 'those responsible for war crimes must be identified and held accountable,' is not based on any wish to please Iran or Syria. Turkey has a steady and clear policy on this issue and it is not a proxy for any country. "Public opinion exists in Turkey too and it is influential, and when the prime minister sees thousands of Turks protesting against Israel's policy in Jerusalem, he cannot remain indifferent. At the same time, Turkey continues and will continue to have normal ties with Israel because such a relationship is part of Turkey's strategy, but today it finds itself in a different international status, of the sort that allows it to also take swipes at Israel."


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