Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Wednesday that Israel should not cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council probe into the conflict in Gaza, and threatened the lives of top Hamas leaders if the terror group doesn’t return the bodies of two IDF soldiers who were killed in the fighting.
Speaking while on a tour of southern Israel, the hard-line minister decried the investigative panel to be led by Prof. William Schabas, and urged that Israel not participate in its activities to avoid giving it any form of approval.
“This committee, appointed by the Human Rights Council, is a symphony of hypocrisy,” he said. “Israel mustn’t cooperate with this committee. We have to deal with it, but not cooperate and give legitimacy to Israel-haters.”
Schabas was named Monday to lead the commission to investigate possible war crimes.
Israel dismissed the probe as one-sided and said the appointment of Schabas — who has called for both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres to stand trial in the International Criminal Court in the Hague — proved the outcome of the report had been predetermined.
Israel has not officially said whether it will boycott the commission, as it did with a similar probe following the 2008-2009 Cast Lead operation. On Wednesday, Army Radio reported officials were leaning toward not cooperating with Schabas.
Liberman also declared that Israel would not agree to any long-term ceasefire deal in which the remains of slain soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin aren’t returned by Hamas.
“If the bodies aren’t returned, the bodies of [Al-Qassam Brigades leader] Mohammed Deif and [Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip] Ismail Haniyeh and all the Hamas leadership will be returned to them,” he said in a thinly veiled threat.
The minister, who has pushed for a harsh Israeli response to Gazan attacks, warned that if after the current 72-hour ceasefire, due to end at midnight Wednesday night, there is a resumption of attacks on Israel then the country should aim to win a decisive military victory over Hamas, once and for all.
“The state of Israel cannot afford a war of attrition,” he said. “Therefore we need to achieve a defeat even if the cost is an escalation. We need to take the initiative, even if the cost is a significant escalation, and to finish the story as quickly as possible with a decisive end.”
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are working via Egyptian mediators in Cairo to try and hammer out a long-term truce after a month of fighting between Israel and Hamas. However, on Wednesday both Israeli and Palestinian sources said that there were still gaps between the two sides.
Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 with the aim of stemming rocket fire from Gaza at its towns and cities and later started a ground operation to locate and destroy a network of tunnels, dug by Hamas under the border, that were used to infiltrate Israel.