The council approved a Palestinian-backed resolution after two days of debate on the Goldstone report, which it had commissioned following the December 27- January 18 conflict in which almost 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
The resolution passed 25-6, with mostly developing countries in favour and the United States and five European countries — Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia and Ukraine opposing. Eleven countries abstained, including Britain and France. Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council, voted yes.
“The clock on the report starts now,” said Ibrahim Khraishi, the Palestinian Authority’s UN ambassador in Geneva, adding that he hoped the Security Council would take up the report.
If the report is considered by the 15-member Security Council, the US is likely to use its veto to block any call for getting the International Criminal Court involved in the dispute over Gaza or taking action against Israel.
The 575-page report, compiled by an expert group led by Judge Richard Goldstone, concluded that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure during its incursion into the Gaza Strip to root out Palestinian rocket squads.
It also accused Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, of deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror through rocket attacks on southern Israel.
In Ramallah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed the vote.
“What is important now is to translate words into deeds in order to protect our people in the future from any new aggression,” Nabil Abu Rdeneh said.
Israel and the US called the Goldstone report “flawed” because it ignored Israel’s right to defend its people from Palestinian rocket fire. They warned that the vote could jeopardise prospects for peace.
Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday: “Whoever votes in favour of endorsing the report must understand that next time it will be the soldiers and officers of NATO in Afghanistan, and then Russian soldiers and officers in Chechnya.”
US diplomat Douglas M Griffiths said Washington was disappointed with the outcome of the vote: “We’re focused on moving forward in the peace process and we feel that this is a distraction from that.”
The resolution — which also condemns recent Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories and east Jerusalem — endorses the report’s recommendation that both sides in the conflict show the Security Council within six months that they are carrying out credible investigations into alleged Gaza abuses. If they are not, the matter should then be referred to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Israel does not accept the court’s jurisdiction.