RAMALLAH: The Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, has conceded that his Government’s mishandling of a United Nations report on the war in Gaza has strengthened its political rival, Hamas.Under pressure from the US, the Palestinian leadership refused to endorse the Goldstone report, sparking furious protests across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.The severity of the backlash forced the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to reverse the decision. The report was highly critical of Israel’s bombardment and invasion of Gaza in December and January, saying actions by it – and by Hamas – amounted to war crimes.The UN Human Rights Council is due to begin debate today on a move to censure Israel over the Gaza war.The Palestinians are also calling on the Human Rights Council to condemn Israel’s recent closure of the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, area and demand that UN institutions oblige Israel to end the siege of the Gaza Strip.”There is no question that [our handling of the Goldstone Report] has caused major weakness for the Palestinian Authority,” Mr Fayyad told a foreign press briefing in Ramallah yesterday. “That is obvious. That is what we all witnessed.”The perception we had not done everything to safeguard the interests of the Palestinian people has also strengthened the hand of those who do not subscribe to our point of view of adherence to international law, and negotiation through a peaceful process.”Mr Fayyad said he expected the report to be passed up through normal channels of the UN. “We would like to see the report go through due process, as is normal in the operations of the Human Rights Council under international law.”He also strongly backed the US President’s handling of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.Asked if he had lost confidence in Barack Obama, Mr Fayyad said: “No. Obviously we haven’t and we will not. US leadership is essential to making this happen, as is the direct and strong involvement of the European Union, and the Quartet [the US, UN, EU and Russia].”We are disappointed that we are not seeing the process move faster, but that is not to say that we have lost hope.”Mr Fayyad repeatedly emphasised that the Palestinian Authority remained committed to the principles of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state as laid out under the terms of the ”road map” for peace.”We have implemented our obligations under the road map. Israel on the other hand cannot even fulfil its obligation to offer unequivocal support for an independent, sovereign Palestinian state.”Israel was yesterday preparing a vigorous diplomatic campaign to stymie attempts by the Human Rights Council to censure it over the war in Gaza.The Israeli public relations campaign will chiefly be divided between four people: the President, Shimon Peres; the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu; the Defence Minister, Ehud Barak; and the Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman.Each of them has received a list with a number of heads of state with whom he will talk and ask them not to support the Goldstone report.Israel will warn that adopting the report means ending the peace process, because it will not agree to wage a legal-diplomatic battle at the same time as it is conducting a peace process.
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